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Affecting, fearless, and unsparingly honest.

An acclaimed essayist’s memoir about finding personal redemption in female friends and lovers after growing up in a wealthy but dysfunctional Florida family.

Born out of wedlock to a white shoe mogul father and a Chinese-Hawaiian ex-model, Madden was a lonely child who longed for “love the size of a fist.” To comfort herself, she wrote stories about an alter ego named Joni Baloney and developed a pen-pal relationship with a 51-year-old man who found her through an ad she had placed in TigerBeat magazine. Her parents began living together, and eventually, Madden's father moved her and her mother from Coconut Grove to Boca Raton. The union granted the author access to privileges that included an exclusive private school education, riding lessons, and horses of her own. However, living with her father also brought her face to face with his alcoholism. The rampages that sometimes resulted often meant brutal beatings for her mother, who developed her own addiction to painkillers. While her parents suffered in an unstable relationship, Madden struggled to find sustaining friendships and love among the drinking, drugging, silver-spoon youths of Boca Raton. For a brief time, she became part of what she calls “the tribe of fatherless girls,” a small group of fierce female outcasts who showed her the affection she lacked at home while unexpectedly stirring queer longings the author did not realize she had. In her late teens, Madden moved to New York City. There, she studied fashion design and pursued lesbian relationships that not only helped her heal, but also face the challenges of losing the father she loved and discovering the older half sister her mother had given up for adoption more than a decade before Madden's birth. Though the author’s aching emotional rawness sometimes makes for difficult reading, this is a deeply courageous work that chronicles one artist’s jagged—and surprisingly beautiful—path to wholeness.

Affecting, fearless, and unsparingly honest.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-185-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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