Forthright and private moments are revealed as a stand-up comedian uses her gift of creating laughter to overcome personal...

A stand-up comic and writer’s year from hell.

When Notaro received antibiotics for a case of pneumonia, she didn’t know she was embarking on months of health and family disasters. The drugs gave her a difficult and debilitating intestinal disease called C. diff, which caused her to lose more than 20 pounds and experience terrible abdominal pain. In the same time period, she lost her mother to an unexpected home accident. Then, after months of delay, she finally decided to examine the lump in her breast that she’d detected two years earlier, only to be told she had breast cancer in both breasts. At this extremely low point in her life, Notaro walked on stage and delivered brand-new material, opening with lines about her cancer. Once the audience realized she wasn’t joking, she writes, it was then “her job as a comedian to get every silenced, stunned person back to laughing….I made it my mission to yank everyone out of the dark hole by delivering a lighter joke or asking why they were taking this so hard—which caused the laughter that we all needed.” She received a standing ovation, and her career skyrocketed even as she faced a double mastectomy, the ongoing grief of her mother’s passing, and a broken romance. As she unfolds the intimate moments of her personal annus horribilis, Notaro intermingles laugh-out-loud moments from her childhood with her crazy mother and stepfather and sweet romantic times as an adult. Throughout her brief work, the author is frank, at times humorous, and anything but melodramatic. She shows readers the full spectrum of her emotional and physical conditions, her vulnerability, and ultimately her strength as she enters a happier and healthier stage in her life.

Forthright and private moments are revealed as a stand-up comedian uses her gift of creating laughter to overcome personal and physical disasters.

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-226663-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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