A complex, intimate, and illuminating inquiry into and defense of Brando.



A new biography of a legendary actor who “used his fame to draw attention to racism and injustice.”

It has been 25 years since Peter Manso’s 1,000-page Brando: The Biography, and award-winning biographer Mann (The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America’s Greatest Political Family, 2016, etc.) believes Manso (and “conventional wisdom”) incorrectly portrays Brando (1924-2004) as “eccentric, erratic, narcissistic and hypocritical.” In this meticulously researched book, bolstered by access to the Brando estate, Mann “attempts to see Brando’s life, career, choices, and actions in a new light.” The author describes him as a “thinker, an observer, an examiner of himself and the world, with the goal of figuring out both.” He sympathetically portrays Brando as a survivor of childhood trauma, the only son of alcoholic parents: an abusive father and a distant, neglectful mother Brando loved dearly. Mann begins in 1943 in New York City, where the impoverished high school dropout studied at the New School’s Dramatic Workshop. He was insecure about many things but not sex, and his womanizing would always be a problem. The gifted teacher, Stella Adler, took “her young student under her wing.” She wanted to make him great, but for Brando, acting would always be a “lark, a game of pretense.” Although he was in a dark place, Brando did A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway primarily because of director Elia Kazan, whom Brando greatly admired. After its success, Mann writes, he “knew his life was no longer his own.” In 1963, he walked with the Congress on Racial Equality—he believed that “if more people knew about the reality of racial discrimination, they wouldn’t stand for it”—and he was furious over what the studio did to his directorial debut, One-Eyed Jacks. Throughout, Mann balances Brando’s reluctance to act with excellent insights into his finest performances. Brando enjoyed the improvisation he brought to The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris; it made acting seem “fun and creative.” For Mann, Brando was always a “searcher” who “spent his life trying to become ever more conscious.”

A complex, intimate, and illuminating inquiry into and defense of Brando.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-242764-9

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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