RAISING JESS

A STORY OF HOPE

A frank, perceptive, and insightful remembrance.

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A mother describes raising a child with special needs in this debut memoir.

On April 11, 1982, on Easter Sunday in Buffalo, New York, Rubin gave birth to her daughter, Jess, while suffering from chicken pox herself. She was forced to isolate from her newborn child until her illness had passed. At first, pediatricians assured Rubin and her husband, Mitch, that their daughter was developing normally, but the author notes that Jess had “unusual facial features and other anomalies.” Jess was later found to have multiple developmental disabilities resulting from a chromosomal disorder, although Rubin struggled for years to receive an accurate diagnosis. The author describes her initial drive to understand and “fix” Jess’ condition; she records key moments, such as her daughter’s bat mitzvah and her entry into the special education process. Rubin also relates her own career path, which led to her becoming the director of the Early Childhood Direction Center at Buffalo Children’s Hospital in 1998. The memoir concludes with Rubin and her husband visiting Jess, now in her 30s, in her group-home community during the Covid-19 pandemic and the heartache they felt when they had to distance from their daughter. Rubin is a forthright author who addresses topics that other parents of children with multiple disabilities will find stimulating, as when she explores the significance of getting Jess’ diagnosis: “The revelation did not change therapies or even medical care, but it gave a name and identity to the various symptoms and beauty that describe Jessica.” The author’s approach is also courageously exploratory, as when she investigates how Jess’ siblings were shaped by growing up with her. Throughout, Rubin shares a wide range of material, including family photographs and even the invitation to Jess’ bat mitzvah. Some readers may feel that some of this is unnecessary and makes for an overly cluttered memoir, but others will think it makes Jess’ story feel all the more personal. Overall, Rubin writes with clarity and thoughtful introspection, making for a truly enlightening read.

A frank, perceptive, and insightful remembrance.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66246-052-4

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2022

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  • New York Times Bestseller

TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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  • 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

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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