A celebrity memoir that compassionately interrogates the dark side of the American dream.

WE WERE DREAMERS

AN IMMIGRANT SUPERHERO ORIGIN STORY

The star of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings recounts how he overcame his tortured relationship with his immigrant Chinese parents to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.

Liu spent his youth with his loving paternal grandparents in Harbin, China, while his parents struggled to establish roots in the U.S. and, later, Canada. When he was reunited with his parents at the age of 4, they were unprepared to be parents. “Mom and Dad were about to experience the myriad of new responsibilities and burdens that came with raising a child,” he writes, “and would learn very quickly that ‘parenthood’ was a lot more complicated than just living together.” Liu vividly remembers that the first time he lied to his parents, when he was 5, they locked him out of the apartment, a punishment that led to a rupture of trust that was never fully repaired. Their relationship deteriorated further when Liu was accepted into a prestigious private school in Toronto, which required him to work harder than he ever had before at his academics—something that, as a young man, he had little interest in doing. Before detailing the physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his parents, he gives readers details about their earlier lives, which included a great deal of hardship. It wasn’t until Liu was laid off from his accounting job after college that he had the courage to admit to his parents—and himself—that he wanted to act. Today, he is the latest Marvel hero. Liu’s compassionate treatment of his abusive parents and his younger self results in a tender, nuanced narrative that is refreshing in its frankness. His focus on the pressure, rather than the promise, of the American dream actively subverts the model-minority myth. Though the prose is sometimes uneven, the book is mostly entertaining and nuanced.

A celebrity memoir that compassionately interrogates the dark side of the American dream.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304649-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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