Valuable human-interest stories that provide food for thought and hope for change regarding a troubled yet vibrant society.



A Tehran-born American journalist invites readers to reexamine what they think they know about Iran and its people.

Kangarlou, an accomplished international correspondent who has spent years reporting from the Middle East for CNN, NBC, and other outlets, is cleareyed about the goal of her debut book: Recognizing that many Westerners see Iran as an oppressive theocracy, she seeks to rectify this simplistic take on her home country. Her approach—a series of vignettes of individual Iranians set against a broader historical background—is disarming and mostly effective. Kangarlou confronts stereotypes about Iranians and how those stereotypes are often complicated by people’s private lives—e.g., the gay son of a general in the Revolutionary Guard; a reformist Shia Muslim cleric known as the “Blogger Ayatollah”; Iran’s first female race-car driver, who, despite hardships, chooses to remain in her country (“my entire family, failures, successes, struggles, wins, are all here”); and a transgender woman with childhood dreams of becoming a cleric. The author’s portraits reveal a country that is more intricate and tolerant than many readers comprehend. For example, Kangarlou shows how the government permits many freedoms to religious minorities like Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. Furthermore, “Iran is the only Muslim country in the region that grants legal rights to transgender people.” In other ways, the stories confirm certain impressions of Iranian society, such as sweeping limits on the press or the fact that Iran’s gay community has been forced to live largely in secret for decades. Because Kangarlou doesn’t dig as deep into the nation’s brutal side, the book isn’t a comprehensive picture of “the real Iran.” However, it’s a readable narrative that sounds strong notes of compassion about a nation that is often misunderstood.

Valuable human-interest stories that provide food for thought and hope for change regarding a troubled yet vibrant society.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63246-205-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ig Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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