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RAISING, AND LOSING, MY REMARKABLE TEENAGE MOTHER

A MEMOIR

An intimate and moving account of a singular bond.

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In this debut memoir, a woman describes her unconventional relationship with her mother, a teenage parent.

“She was fifteen; he was nineteen….Vietnam was raging,” writes Aaronson in her opening chapter. With the imminent possibility of young men being called to serve overseas in the war, sex seemed like the “next natural step” for the teenage couple. They broke up soon after, with Cindy—the author’s mother—later discovering she was pregnant. Compelled to marry, Aaronson’s parents divorced while she was still a baby. The author describes being raised by a young and inexperienced single mom and the burgeoning understanding that Aaronson was meant not only to be her mother’s daughter, but also her “mother’s mother.” As a child, the author was taken to pot parties where she earned the lifelong moniker Doobie. Growing older, she recalls the freedom given to her by her mother and how they became great friends. Their bond was tightened in later life when Cindy (who changed her name to Briana in the late 1970s) fell ill, first with multiple sclerosis and then cancer. As a caregiver, Aaronson recounts her mother’s treatment and use of holistic therapies. The author’s writing is plainly conversational in tone, on occasion addressing readers directly: “You may be wondering how my dad and grandparents fit into this orbit of my mom’s and mine.” Although straightforward, Aaronson’s approach has a disarming charm and is warmly intuitive: “She had grown up adoring her baby dolls, and I was basically her most extraordinary one yet, being live and all.” The author includes transcriptions of her text exchanges with her mom, which add a deeper layer of intimacy, although certain conversations may make some readers uncomfortable: “Her: I’m feeling very anxious right now. My damn stoma has herniated and it’s sticking out really far! Great / Me: Oh no! What the??? Don’t worry…I’ll stick it back in at the airport.” Those who are skeptical about alternative therapies and mediumship may also struggle with this book. Illustrated with family photographs, this frank and affecting work is a deeply personal celebration of maternal love that avoids the pitfall of being narrowly anecdotal by exploring broader issues of personal identity, family lineage, and struggles with grief.

An intimate and moving account of a singular bond.

Pub Date: June 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73646-050-4

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Astoria Books

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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