A fresh and timely perspective on the immigrant experience—required reading for fans of Stefanovic and a strong inducement...

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MISS EX-YUGOSLAVIA

A MEMOIR

A writer and raconteur chronicles her life growing up in the former-Yugoslavian immigrant subculture of 1990s Australia.

Stefanovic (You're Just Too Good to Be True, 2015), the host of the literary salon Women of Letters New York, uses the eponymous pageant to introduce the “ex-Yugos,” immigrants from the former Yugoslavia who found refuge in Australia from the brutal wars of the Slobodan Miloševi? regime. The author’s adolescence coincided with the dissolution of her country. Her parents, anti-Miloševi? activists and members of an urban intellectual elite, sensed the coming storm and moved their family abroad to secure citizenship and hence an escape route from the impending conflicts. Stefanovic recounts her youth, from earliest memories of life in Serbia to a few formative years spent bouncing between Melbourne and Belgrade and finally back to Australia for good, where she joined the growing Serbian-Australian population forced to watch TV news snippets of their home country imploding. The author effectively explains how, despite her proud ambivalence, she came to embrace “ex-Yugo” culture so thoroughly that she agreed to compete in a gaudy local beauty pageant to represent it. Living between two cultures added fuel to the already blazing fires of adolescent awkwardness, and Stefanovic tends to deprecate rather than sympathize with her past self, whom she casts as pathetic and attention-seeking. Yet being an outsider sharpened her powers of observation and improved her gifts for language, setting her on the path toward a career as a storytelling performer. Eventually, Stefanovic found her way to activism through writing. Her quirky, poignant, relatable anecdotes offer a nuanced and unflinching portrait of lived experience, rejecting the media’s oversimplified accounts of the Yugoslavian wars and helping to break down the monolithic labels applied to refugees from those wars, especially Serbians. Her stories show the ways in which war warps the lives of generations, even those who never witness violence firsthand.

A fresh and timely perspective on the immigrant experience—required reading for fans of Stefanovic and a strong inducement for newcomers to explore the rest of her work.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6574-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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