A frank, perceptive, and insightful remembrance.

RAISING JESS

A STORY OF HOPE

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

TANQUERAY

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 28, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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