A comprehensive, if sometimes long-winded, familial study.

BARBARA

UNCHARTED COURSE THROUGH BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER

Seeking to understand his parent’s undiagnosed mental illness, retired veteran Affield analyzes primary sources for a holistic view of his subject.

Continuing his investigation into his family’s past that he begun in Chickenhouse Chronicles(2017), the author compiles decades of diaries and letters to examine the life of his mother, Barbara, who died in 2010. Letters that she sent to and from the author’s maternal grandmother, Elsie, provide much of the insight into Barbara’s childhood. She was born in 1920 to parents who maintained a lavish lifestyle, on the surface at least, as the ’20s ended and the Great Depression began. Elsie wrote often to family members about Barbara’s “attacks” and how she isolated herself. Affield notes throughout how Barbara’s symptoms match his hypothesis that she suffered from borderline personality disorder; however, he’s cautious to note where his grandmother’s words may be unreliable, as she “often wrote in her diary after the fact so she could put a favorable spin on her own actions.” The transcribed diary entries and letters are sometimes tedious to read, but they’re also resoundingly thorough. If the goal of this project is to put in modern terms what didn’t have a name during his mother’s time, then it’s successful. The book is at its finest, however, when Affield inserts his own memories or observations, such as an assessment of a photo of his mother in “the trappings of affluence…her folded, gloved hands” as she sets sail for an ill-fated time in Europe at the dawn of World War II. He tracks correspondence between anxious family members following her troubled return to America; she changed her name and moved from suitor to suitor, “running from problems—a common borderline personality disorder defense mechanism,” which resulted in a mystery regarding the identity of Affield’s father. The book comes alive as the author begins to seek out information on his unknown parent in Part 3 and a genetic investigation plays out in emails and letters.

A comprehensive, if sometimes long-winded, familial study.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-945902-08-6

Page Count: 396

Publisher: Whispering Petals Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2021

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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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