An energetic, if conventional, memoir of achievement through hard work.

WELFARE CHEESE TO FINE CAVIAR

HOW TO ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS DESPITE YOUR UPBRINGING

Wideman offers tips on how to achieve financial success in this motivational remembrance.

As its title implies, this is a rags-to-riches tale. Raised in a poor household with three brothers, he worked hard to get an education and succeed in the business world: “my life has come full circle from the cross-eyed little boy who grew up in the projects of Greenville, South Carolina to the successful family man living in Metro Atlanta,” he writes. This book is an account of that journey, complete with lessons he learned along the way. He shares stories of getting in fights with kids in his apartment complex and committing acts of petty theft with buddies. It was after a rumble with a former friend that Wideman decided he wanted a different sort of life when he grew up—away from the violence and stress of his old neighborhood. Wideman was able to attend college by joining the U.S. Army Reserve, eventually attaining a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Carolina and an MBA in finance from Georgia State University. His professional career was not without rocky patches—he was passed over for promotions many times—but he eventually achieved a managerial position at a Fortune 500 company. Along the way, he married, had children, and he and his wife bought a small bakery, and he praised God for his success. As Wideman tells his story, he pauses to help readers get the most out of his experiences. He particularly encourages readers to avoid what he calls the “Welfare Cheese Mindset,” which includes being “Risk-averse,” “Reactive,” “Nearsighted,” and “Peer-driven,” among other things.

Wideman’s prose is conversational and often enthusiastic, even when talking about the people who stood in his path during his journey: “The kid who lunged a knife at me is no different than the coworker who tried to attack my character or quality of work, took credit for my work, or lied about me. He perceived me as a threat and chose to attack me to distinguish himself in some way.” Each chapter ends with a motivational section, mostly broken down into “Reflection,” “Application,” “Professional Tidbit,” and “Caviar Time,” the last of which contains an affirmation with a religious element: “God will place people in my life to help me and others to test my resolve. I need them both. I got this!” Wideman’s philosophy is in the tradition of familiar respectability politics: Do a good job, kill others with kindness, and trust that things will work out OK. There are limits to such a strategy, however, as not every aspiring youngster will necessarily have the requisite skills or personality type to find success. That said, much of the author’s advice is solid, and his stories may prove an inspiration for readers who’ve faced similar push back in their pursuit of professional success. Wideman achieved the American dream the old-fashioned way, and plenty of his readers will want to follow in his footsteps.

An energetic, if conventional, memoir of achievement through hard work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7364630-0-0

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2021

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

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 28, 2022

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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