Both respectful and scintillating.

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READING JACKIE

HER AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN BOOKS

A clever, surprisingly substantial take on the life of Jacqueline Onassis (1929 –1994).

Kuhn (History/Carthage Coll; The Politics of Pleasure: A Portrait of Benjamin Disraeli, 2006, etc.) admiringly portrays this American icon as a bookish creature born to uncertain privilege who embraced her more wealthy, connected husbands for security rather than a meeting of artistic minds. “Jackie,” as the author calls her throughout, came into her own as an editor only after second husband Aristotle Onassis died. Kuhn asserts that through her publishing list of nearly 100 books, first at Viking, then at Doubleday, this most private public person truly revealed what she cared passionately about. The author’s brisk, officious, often repetitive narrative moves quickly over Jackie’s early career, characterized by the thwarting of her earliest desires to be a ballet dancer and then a writer. Landing a job at Viking in 1975 fulfilled a kind of dream postponed—she had won Vogue’s Prix de Paris for her essay as a 21-year-old college student, gaining her an internship at the magazine’s Paris office, only to be forced by her mother to decline. She also found an important new mentor in former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Through Vreeland, Martha Graham and Bill Moyers, she developed her first successful books. The author traces Jackie’s professional development, from a “shy celebrity recruit” to a macher who could bring in big names via books by Michael Jackson, Naguib Mahfouz and Gelsey Kirkland. Kuhn argues that Jackie touched on forbidden themes in her own life—her husband’s adultery, the humiliation of marriage, political machinations—only through her list, including such books as Barbara Chase-Riboud’s controversial novel Sally Hemings (1979) and Elizabeth Crook’s novel about Sam Houston and Eliza Allen, The Raven’s Bride (1991). In between chronicling the titles shepherded by Jackie, Kuhn offers delicious tidbits of gossip, such as Jackie’s evident glee and pride at her salary increase and promotion to senior editor.

Both respectful and scintillating.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-53099-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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