A memoir about overcoming abuse and finding a true definition of family that’s uplifting, upsetting, and repetitive by turns.

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Driving in the Dark

A CHILDHOOD MEMOIR

A deathbed confrontation frames Niklas’ account of a fraught relationship with her troubled, abusive mother.

The author’s biological mother, Zodie Victor, faced death at the age of 52 after years of hard living. Gale, Zodie’s eldest daughter, and the author, her youngest, gathered at her bedside in the hospital. Niklas tells of deciding to finally confront her mother and then recounts what she says were years of instability and abuse at her parent’s hands. She narrates her troubled childhood, which she portrays as terrifying and complex due to her mother’s multiple failed relationships, violent mood swings, and addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs. Her parent’s issues, she says, endangered her and her sister on multiple occasions. Specifically, the author writes that one of her mom’s husbands molested her, and another frequently got into physical and verbal altercations with her mother. After the teenage Gale managed to leave the family, Niklas was left to fend for herself and serve as her mother’s caretaker. When Niklas was finally sent by the state to live with her best friend’s family, it led to a tug of war between her mother and the Dimocks for Niklas’ love and attention. While her mother attempted to bribe Niklas with pets, clothing, and trips to the movies, the Dimocks showed her simple love and care, allowing her to have a true childhood. The author spent years torn between her loyalty to her biological mother and her intense desire for a “normal” existence. As she grew into the adult that stood at her mother’s bedside, she also learned how to stand up for herself and determine her own needs. Niklas’ account of her experiences is often intense and occasionally poetic, such as when she compares herself to an embryonic chick and expresses a desire to develop before she’s “cracked” like an egg. She returns to certain ideas so often they become mantras, including her preoccupation with being a “good girl” and her frequent meditations on her mother’s favorite phrase, “blood is thicker than water.” Such belabored phrases, as well as the somewhat clunky philosophizing at the memoir’s end, detract from the overall reading experience. However, they don’t take away from Niklas’ message of strength and resilience.

A memoir about overcoming abuse and finding a true definition of family that’s uplifting, upsetting, and repetitive by turns.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2015

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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