by Valarie Kaur ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A unique portrait of post–9/11 Sikhs hampered by its rebranding of old ideas as “revolutionary.”
A Los Angeles–based Sikh American activist, lawyer, and filmmaker tries to reinvent the wheel of love in her coming-of-age memoir.
As the child of Sikh farmers in Clovis, California, Kaur grew up with the Punjabi phrase “chardi kala,” often translated as “relentless optimism,” a state prized by her faith. She has perhaps taken those words too much to heart in her first book, an overambitious blend of memoir, self-help, and left-leaning polemic. As a Stanford undergraduate, Kaur learned that a Sikh family friend had become “the first person killed in a hate crime after 9/11,” and the tragedy led her to travel across the country to interview other victims, whose stories she told in the documentary Divided We Fall. At Yale Law School, Kaur served as a legal observer at a prisoner’s hearing at Guantánamo, where the U.S. naval base just over the hill from the detention center was “a fantastical cross between small-town America and a Caribbean seaside resort,” with fast food restaurants, tennis courts, and a bowling alley. Unwisely, the author folds vivid sections on those and other trips into a meandering, New Age–y brief on the “revolutionary” effort “to reclaim love as a force for justice in our time” and “to love even our opponents.” Toward that end, Kaur suggests “meditating, expressing gratitude, retreating, bodywork, and being in nature” as well as other overfamiliar warhorses of the self-help genre. Throughout the book, her call for acts like “forgiveness” clashes with her view that rage is “a rightful response to the social traumas of patriarchy, white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty.” Depending on the situation, that view is debatable, and while the author offers plenty of good material on the plight of Sikh Americans after 9/11, those elements account for less than half the book; the rest is the author's heavily ideological "manifesto."A unique portrait of post–9/11 Sikhs hampered by its rebranding of old ideas as “revolutionary.”
Pub Date: June 16, 2020
Page Count: 384
Publisher: One World/Random House
Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020
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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 192
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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