THE UPCYCLED SELF

A MEMOIR ON THE ART OF BECOMING WHO WE ARE

An eloquently insightful autobiography from an iconic rapper and wordsmith.

Renowned hip-hop artist Trotter, aka Black Thought, describes how his most important relationships affected his art and his life.

At the age of 6, Trotter accidentally burned down his family’s home. While his family quickly forgave him, understanding that he was just a child, “that experience of total loss became the basis of all that I am.” He continues, “When I was six, there were parts of me, subconscious maybe, that marked my fiery mistake as the beginning of the unraveling of my family. I internalized a simple narrative: it was my fault.” By the time Trotter was 16, his experiences as a young graffiti artist, a student at Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and a witness to the destructive force of the crack epidemic unfolding in his beloved neighborhood in South Philadelphia, made him realize that his community’s struggles—and, in particular, his mother’s murder—were caused by circumstances that began long before his birth. Although he fondly describes his loving relationship with his grandmother, who had high hopes for Trotter and his half-brother, “her only grandkids,” Trotter’s family life was far from stable. Long before he dealt with his mother’s crack addiction and subsequent death, the author also endured his father’s murder. Throughout these extremely difficult times, Trotter credits his access to art and his strong sense of community with his ability to eventually heal. Beyond his family story, the author traces the origin of his musical group The Roots, focusing particularly on his decadeslong friendship with Ahmir Thompson, aka Questlove. The book’s lyricism, clarity, and tone beautifully reflect Trotter’s facility with words, which he has demonstrated for years in the studio and on stage. Although the storyline sometimes meanders, overall, the author’s vulnerability, circumspection, and compassion render this an outstanding read.

An eloquently insightful autobiography from an iconic rapper and wordsmith.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780593446928

Page Count: 176

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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