by Stephen Henderson ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 7, 2020
An inspiring philanthropic account that deftly displays the author’s affability, knowledge, and passion.
Awards & Accolades
A New York–based journalist recounts his experiences in some of the world’s soup kitchens in this debut memoir.
Henderson was in France on a mission to buy an “absurdly expensive oven” when he was asked if he had ever come across the Frenchman Alexis Soyer, who became Victorian Britain’s most celebrated chef. Learning about Soyer, inventor of the soup kitchen, inspired the author to begin his own “gastrophilanthropic” journey. Interested in feeding large numbers of people but with no professional training, Henderson began utilizing his journalistic expeditions as a way of learning more. When visiting Delhi to write an article about India’s fashion week, he discovered that Sikh temples “operate 24-hour soup kitchens.” He later completed a five-day apprenticeship at one such kitchen. The author’s travels also took him to Iran, where he learned about nazr, a spiritual vow that can involve “voluntarily cooking for others.” Henderson then made his own vow to volunteer at a soup kitchen in Pittsburgh to celebrate each year that his niece completed in her Ph.D. program. The memoir details his experiences in Japan, where he stayed at a Buddhist temple; Mexico, where he cooked a meal for a group of “homeless street kids and transgendered sex workers”; Peru; Israel; and South Korea. The author also discusses volunteering at soup kitchens across America.
Henderson’s writing bubbles with enthusiasm. When describing feeding a group of seemingly nonchalant youths at a shelter in Los Angeles, he writes: “What I saw…over the next hour was how a home-cooked meal can transform a roomful of sullen teenagers into a group of cheerful children.” His narrative is also woven with a wealth of background data that underlines the gravity of the homelessness crisis: “It’s also estimated that there may be between one million and three million homeless children currently living on the streets in the United States.” The author’s delightful descriptive skills that often draw on culinary metaphors add a sprinkling of levity to a serious subject (a road in the Andes is depicted as having the “consistency of pudding” and an Israeli tour guide had “hair dyed a shade of red best described as ‘medium rare’ ”). Henderson is conscious of how his approach to “gastrophilanthropy” is viewed by others. He candidly reveals that one friend referred to his journeys as “magical misery tours” whereas another nicknamed him “His Holiness” behind his back. Unafraid to introduce a broad range of perspectives to the memoir, the author admits that “making a meal is, after all, an imposition of your taste onto someone else.” He intelligently defends his position on feeding the poor, drawing on the French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s proposal that “charity is based on income inequity.” Henderson boldly dismisses this explanation as “a clever intellectual’s rationale for doing nothing.” The author draws courage from how his idol, Soyer, was also derided for his acts of charity but endeavored to make a change regardless. This book would benefit from a more determined effort to smoothly segue between chapters; it occasionally reads as a series of independent essays that do not fit together. But this detracts little from a graceful, well-balanced, and enlightening work.An inspiring philanthropic account that deftly displays the author’s affability, knowledge, and passion.
Pub Date: April 7, 2020
Page Count: 240
Publisher: Radius Book Group
Review Posted Online: May 7, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 192
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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