An awkwardly self-conscious but affecting blend of history and memoir.

READ REVIEW

BLACK GLASSES LIKE CLARK KENT

A GI’S SECRET FROM POSTWAR JAPAN

Poet and novelist Svoboda (Tin God, 2006, etc.) chronicles her uncle’s odyssey in occupied Japan and unearths some troubling truths about the U.S. military.

The disjointed nature of her memoir may be connected to the reluctance the author admits feeling when her aging father and uncle pestered her to write about the latter’s 18-month stint as an MP at the close of World War II. Svoboda wasn’t particularly close to Uncle Don, and she wasn’t sure that recording his memories of the Nakano stockade outside Tokyo was going to alleviate the depression he’d slipped into in the spring of 2004, as reports on prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib began to surface. But then he committed suicide, and the author began listening more intently to the tapes he had sent her. Was there a secret he had been holding inside all these years? Calls to other veterans and a trip to Japan helped Svoboda unravel the story, which she tells in fits and starts, alternating her narrative with excerpts from her uncle’s tapes. In 1946, Nakano was the Eighth Army stockade; it housed military personnel convicted of various crimes and waiting to be shipped home to serve their sentences. Most of the prisoners were black men, who were convicted at far higher rates than white soldiers. (Svoboda discovered that 20 of the 21 reported executions in the Pacific during the war were of African-American soldiers.) At one point, Uncle Don remembered, the head captain announced that the stockade was overcrowded and they would begin executing prisoners sentenced to death. Other vets contacted by the author confirmed that a gallows was built, but records of the actual executions were extremely difficult to track down. In Japan, she doggedly asked residents of Nakano what they remembered, and their replies helped her craft this tortuous look at a desperate, shameful era.

An awkwardly self-conscious but affecting blend of history and memoir.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-55597-490-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

Did you like this book?

more