Beautifully woven family memories coalesce into a vivid history of two very different Chinas.

DAUGHTERS OF THE FLOWER FRAGRANT GARDEN

TWO SISTERS SEPARATED BY CHINA'S CIVIL WAR

A saga of the author’s two Chinese aunts that mirrors the convulsive history of 20th-century China.

A professor of East Asian studies at Brown University, Li chronicles the lives of her aunts Jun and Hong who grew up in “a home named the Flower Fragrant Garden, a spacious, verdant family compound, one of Fuzhou’s biggest and richest homes.” They were inseparable as girls in the 1930s, yet by the time of Mao’s cataclysmic Cultural Revolution, they were forced to different sides of the political divide. In the early years, their family was prosperous: Li’s grandfather was a former officer in the Nationalist Army; served as the province’s salt commissioner, “a powerful, ancient position”; and had two wives, Upstairs Grandma, the biological mother of Jun and Hong; and Downstairs Grandma, mother of the author’s mother. While Jun wanted to study to be a teacher, Hong was focused on becoming a doctor. However, following the Japanese invasion and ensuing civil war, their educations were continually disrupted and the family’s tranquility shattered, ushering in an era of dislocation, violence, and famine. When the Nationalists were defeated and relocated to Taiwan, the bamboo curtain effectively sealed Jun, then working in Taiwan, off from the mainland. In the subsequent violence of the Cultural Revolution, Hong was forced into rural reeducation camps and hounded into renouncing all mention of her counterrevolutionary sister, who ran a successful import-export business in Taiwan. Hong was eventually rehabilitated as a successful women’s doctor, and Li offers a moving portrait of the sisters’ reunion after decades of separation. Throughout, the author capably narrates a poignant story of sisterly love and the search for self-knowledge in the face of considerable challenges: “These two remarkable and pioneering women…had fought and won against adversities that might have crushed less powerful, determined figures.”

Beautifully woven family memories coalesce into a vivid history of two very different Chinas.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-393-54177-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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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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