A pleasant success story.

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ALIEN IN THE DELTA

In this debut memoir, a black Air Force veteran recounts his unlikely rise from rural poverty to the upper middle class.

Born in the Arkansas Delta in 1943, Strother was the seventh child of poor parents. His mother worked various manual jobs, including picking cotton for local farmers; his father was the secretary and treasurer of his church. When the author was born, most of his neighbors over 40 couldn’t read or write and young people frequently moved to the North to find better employment opportunities. Strother was no different: “Even though I loved the people in my community, I disliked intensely almost everything about where I grew up. I always felt out-of-place.” As soon as he graduated from high school, he rushed to join the Air Force like his older brother Curtis. Experiencing racism from whites in the South while he was wearing his Air Force uniform—proof that he was willing to fight and die for the United States—brought home the discrimination that Strother would face throughout his life. But the Air Force provided him the opportunity to live abroad in West Germany, where, removed from the American dynamics of black and white, he was able to experience something closer to racial equality. After marrying a German woman and moving with her to Detroit, Strother did not let the expectations of others hold him back from pursuing the American dream. In his book, which features some family photographs, the author recounts attending night school to become a computer programmer, getting a job with a major corporation, working his way up to salesman and then district manager, and investing in real estate. Strother skillfully summons his memories using a simple, direct prose: “When Papa went to the bank to withdraw his money, it was closed and out of business. After that, he started to keep his money in Prince Albert tobacco containers, which he would bury around his house.” There’s a soothing rhythm to the narration, though it tends to ramble unpredictably. While Strother led an accomplished life, the achievements were not flashy ones, and he does not imbue them with much excitement. The author seems to intend for this to be an inspirational memoir, but readers will likely end up not feeling much emotion beyond a satisfaction that Strother’s life worked out nicely.

A pleasant success story.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4791-3902-6

Page Count: 259

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

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

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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