Honest and unsparing, though sometimes repetitive, this memoir is at its best when exploring the challenges faced, and...

A frank account of a woman’s rapid rise and scandalous fall in the Marines during the Reagan era.

Crow (Creative Writing/Eckerd Coll.) begins in an interrogation room where she was being questioned in preparation for a potential court-martial on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer. The author returns to this room, and that time period, intermittently throughout the book. Otherwise, the story progresses in roughly chronological order: Crow’s entrance into the Marines as a teenager seeking to escape alcoholism (her own and her father’s); her successful career as a military journalist; her personal struggles with marriage and motherhood. A particularly strong theme is the way the military was unable to see beyond her unmistakably feminine body: “Despite the personal challenges I had overcome—alcoholism, self-loathing, laziness—I could never defeat the signals my body sent the world.” Crow’s response to sexism and harassment was to starve herself to make weight and ignore a serious health problem in order to complete an assignment—a decision that had devastating consequences. By the end of the book, what seemed like shocking conduct at the beginning is placed in the context of the author’s drive for a life with purpose, and we see that the decision she made to resolve her situation is a true sacrifice on her part. At times the author’s prose is stilted, and she often relies too heavily on a few phrases (e.g., “hot blood,” “too-tight bra”).

Honest and unsparing, though sometimes repetitive, this memoir is at its best when exploring the challenges faced, and sacrifices demanded, by women in the armed forces.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8032-3504-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012


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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