An honest, unapologetic, and keenly observed memoir.



The intimate story of the sexual abuse the author experienced as a child as well as her sexual coming-of-age and development.

The Rumpus Sunday editor Zolbrod (Currency, 2010) was just 4 years old when her 16-year-old cousin, Toshi, who had moved into her home to escape a difficult family situation, began abusing her. Toshi left a year later, and the author did not speak of the incident to anyone. At 12, she finally blurted out her story to a friend who had just become sexually active. When she mentioned the molestation again, it was to Carl, a young man she met one summer in college and with whom she shared a profound erotic connection. Zolbrod discovered that, rather than seeming like an interesting but ultimately empty story out of “a V.C. Andrews novel,” her troubled past gave her “street cred” among the counterculture “ragamuffins” and sex workers who were her housemates. With Carl, she plumbed the depths of her own desire fiercely and without shame. Yet subsequent relationships mirrored the deep-seated unease she also felt about her sexuality. One in particular was with a Chicago artist whose work reflected his obsession with circumcision and the rage he felt at having been “mutilated.” Influenced by her association with Carl, the author found herself crying spontaneously over her memories of molestation. Finally telling her mother and father about Toshi only intensified her confusion; neither assumed the roles of outraged parents she “had retroactively assigned them.” Only after she was in her 30s and learned that Toshi had been convicted of aggravated child assault did she begin to free herself from her past by more actively confronting it. Zolbrod’s fragmented narrative style, which moves between life episodes rather than chronologically, perfectly captures her fractured sense of self. What makes this book so memorable, however, is the courage she eventually found to move beyond the paralyzing “web of loyalty and blood” to tell her truth.

An honest, unapologetic, and keenly observed memoir.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940430-74-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Curbside Splendor

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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