An affecting testimonial to the power of action and of storytelling—to say nothing of a good right hook—to make real change.

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12 ROUNDS IN LO'S GYM

BOXING AND MANHOOD IN APPALACHIA

Spirited memoir of life in a West Virginia backwater, where fight clubs keep youngsters from going off the rails.

It was a kid named Noah Milton—or maybe “his name was Noah and he was from Milton, West Virginia”—who was, writes Snyder (Rhetoric and Writing/Siena Coll.; The Rhetoric of Appalachian Identity, 2014), “the first person to kick my ass.” It wouldn’t be the last ass-kicking he received at the hands of beefy rednecks while standing up to his opponents in the rings of his father’s gym. He got knocked down, and he got up, always remembering his dad’s advice: “when you crawl through the ropes, you can’t hide from the truth,” whether it reveals you to be a fighter or a coward. Steeped in English literature, Snyder views the contest through a refined lens. While thinking of Beowulf, for instance, he recounts one neighbor, a “dope-smoking hippy” who bought the ring where Larry Holmes fought a storied bout, then had it painted red. A college friend is likened to Frankenstein’s monster, and he to the good doctor himself, since Snyder, delivered from temptation by virtue of logging time wailing the tar out of his contemporaries, was teaching the young man his tricks. “He was the type of guy who’d find a fight if one didn’t come looking for him,” writes the author appreciatively. Snyder has succeeded in melding the worlds of literature and the sweet science. As he writes, his first college essay was on how Joe Louis figured in Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, even as his father, who hit on the idea of boxing as a means of warding off juvenile delinquency, earned honor for his contributions at Lo’s Gym. Though the circumstances and surroundings are grim in meth-lab coal country, Snyder retains a pleasing but not Pollyannaish optimism throughout.

An affecting testimonial to the power of action and of storytelling—to say nothing of a good right hook—to make real change.

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-946684-12-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: West Virginia Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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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

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

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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

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