Quietly powerful, deftly crafted essays bear witness to the contagion of suffering.

INTIMATIONS

SIX ESSAYS

Rueful, angry, deftly-crafted and potent responses to ominous times.

With 2020 barely “halfway done,” fiction writer and essayist Smith offers an incisive collection of short pieces reflecting, she writes, “some of the feelings and thoughts that events, so far, have provoked in me.” Those events, not surprisingly, center around the pandemic but also include the killing of George Floyd and the worldwide response to racial injustice that the murder incited. Sheltered with her family, Smith reflects on the meaning of creativity, particularly writing, which seems at once a way to gain control (“when I am writing, space and time itself bend to my will!”) and a way to fill time. “There is no great difference between novels and banana bread,” she writes. “They are both just something to do.” Yet these essays clearly have emerged from profound “moral anxiety” about privilege, hatred, and oppression: of “contempt as a virus.” The pandemic, she notes, has underscored pervasive inequality and injustice. “Untimely death has rarely been random in these United States,” she writes. “It has usually had a precise physiognomy, location, and bottom line.” At the heart of those distinctions is racism, laid bare by Floyd’s murder: “It was the virus, in its most lethal manifestation.” She once thought, she writes, “that there would one day be a vaccine: that if enough people named the virus, explained it, demonstrated how it operates, videoed its effects, revealed how widespread it really is, how the symptoms arise, how irresponsibly and shamefully too many Americans keep giving it to each other, generation after generation, causing intolerable and unending damage both to individual bodies and to the body politic—I thought, if that knowledge became as widespread as could possibly be managed or imagined, we might finally reach some kind of herd immunity. I don’t think that any more.” In just under 100 pages, Smith intimately captures the profundity of our current historical moment.

Quietly powerful, deftly crafted essays bear witness to the contagion of suffering.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-29761-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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