This delightful book about coping with a disorder delivers important lessons for parents and educators as well as younger...

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The Toaster Oven Mocks Me

A debut memoir focuses on a rare condition involving the senses.

Early in this work, Margolis provides the following definition of his affliction: “Synesthesia is a condition where one sense is stimulated, but two senses respond.” Specific manifestations may vary, but the author first addresses his perception that each letter or number has a specific color. He then prints an entire page of text in color, as he sees it, and the effect is definitely disorienting. In the prologue, when young Margolis was tasked with unscrambling letters on a chalkboard in front of the class, he encountered an additional difficulty because the letters began to argue with one another. Thus, the author adds another layer to the story, reflected in the title, as he sometimes perceives voices or sounds emanating from inanimate objects. Margolis later explains: “I don’t hear their voices per se. They don’t have faces or mouths. I hear them as thoughts or impressions.” During his college years, a chance encounter with a poster featuring the curious word “synesthetic” led him to discover that he was not entirely alone. As fascinating as this situation may seem, there is much more to the story that makes his case even more unusual, including an ironic twist whereby the coping mechanisms and compensation strategies he had developed on his own and came to rely upon no longer worked properly. Still, through all of this turmoil, Margolis only shared his secret with one other person; even his wife remained in the dark. The act of publishing this book is his big reveal, although he admits that he considered using a pseudonym. (If it’s a safe assumption that Margolis eventually opened up to his wife, one wonders why he omits that potentially dramatic moment from the text.) Overall, the author writes in an easily accessible style with a pleasant combination of self-deprecating humor and vivid descriptions of key incidents. The organization of the text into four main sections—Discovery, Concealment, Education, and Acceptance—reflects a journey that many will likely recognize and embrace. Margolis’ memoir should certainly resonate with readers who have ever felt somehow outside of the norm in any number of different contexts.

This delightful book about coping with a disorder delivers important lessons for parents and educators as well as younger audiences.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5176-1345-7

Page Count: 156

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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