A sharply intelligent, lyrically provocative memoir.

MOTHER WINTER

A MEMOIR

A feminist nonfiction writer’s memoir about growing up between two cultures and her search for the mother from whom she was separated as a child.

When she was young, Shalmiyev’s Azerbaijani father took her alcoholic Russian mother to court. A judge declared Elena—who was so addicted she drank cologne when she didn’t have vodka—an unfit mother, estranging her from the family. Her father spirited his daughter away from Leningrad “without a goodbye” to Elena just before the fall of communism and immigrated to the United States. Settling in New York, he married a Ukrainian woman who followed him from Leningrad. The teenage Shalmiyev developed an interest in feminism and female artists such as Sappho, Doris Lessing, and Kathy Acker, among others. Throughout, the author interweaves references to these figures among the impressionistic vignettes that comprise the primary narrative. She also recounts the days in her early 20s when she worked as a peep show stripper among women “caustic with mocking sarcasm, not having any of IT.” With Elena never far from her thoughts, she also secretly wrote letters to her mother in English as a “process of mourning my mother [and]…what she did and did not provide me in life.” Shalmiyev then returned to Russia to look for Elena only to find that she could not locate her mother anywhere. She continued living aimlessly after that, indulging her penchant for parties and “loud and raucous night[s] that ignore[d] the nuzzling rays of daylight.” When she finally married, it was with trepidation—not just for the end of her “party-girl” days, but also for a life of settled domesticity. Shalmiyev knew it was in her just as it was in her mother “to leave [her] children…[and] make them unhappy.” Ultimately, though, she chose a path that tested her ability to nurture and forgive. A rich tapestry of autobiography and meditations on feminism, motherhood, art, and culture, this book is as intellectually satisfying as it is artistically profound.

A sharply intelligent, lyrically provocative memoir.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9308-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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