A rewarding journey across a continent and into the author’s own past.

Just One Question

A ROAD TRIP INTERVIEW WITH AMERICA

In this debut memoir, an education specialist travels across America and asks people, “If you could ask everyone you met just one question, what would you ask?”

Sassaman, after dropping out of college, was persuaded by his father to sign-up for the outdoor-education program Outward Bound. There, a wilderness instructor challenged him to meditate on one big question per day. Years later, after getting a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, Sassaman was still asking questions. He traveled, tracing an ellipse from Boston to San Francisco and back, and meditated on “Basic questions, like the kind you ask yourself in at the end of high school, or throughout college. What does it all mean? How are we connected to each other?” He met friends along the way, old and new, and they told him the questions they’d like to ask people. (It’s entirely possible to skip straight to the end of the book to see all 745 answers, but more patient readers will enjoy the larger story that Sassaman tells.) “Have you lived your life to the fullest?” asks a young student on a wilderness adventure. “Are you willing to die?” challenges a 12-year-old living off the grid in Arizona. A BBC reporter at Burning Man in Nevada wonders, “What is your ultimate goal for happiness?” Not every one of Sassaman’s encounters went according to plan, though. On his way back east, for example, an old friend angrily confronted him: “Here’s my suspicion,” he said. “You don’t actually have an answer for yourself…for your own stupid project!” Readers may wonder the same. Also, plenty of people opted not to engage him (“Usually when people said, ‘I’ll get back to you on that one,’ it meant: ‘I will not be getting back to you,’ ” he notes). But Sassaman was dogged in his pursuit and unsparing in his self-examination. Readers learn as much about his own checkered past and accompanying guilt as they do about the country through which he travels, and that’s as it should be—this is a memoir, after all. However, it’s a rare example of a personal story that raises more questions than it answers, and deliberately so. As readers turn the pages, they’ll inevitably find themselves trying to answer their own version of Sassaman’s question.

A rewarding journey across a continent and into the author’s own past. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Pants Press

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2016

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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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