The writing dazzles with the marvel of being fully alive.

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WORLD OF WONDERS

IN PRAISE OF FIREFLIES, WHALE SHARKS, AND OTHER ASTONISHMENTS

A poet celebrates the wonders of nature in a collection of essays that could almost serve as a coming-of-age memoir.

The daughter of an Indian father and Filipino mother, Nezhukumatathil was often the only brown face in her classrooms, and she sought lessons from nature on how to adapt, protect herself, and conform or fit in but still be able to stand strong on her own. She shares those lessons throughout these frequently enchanting essays. Take the axolotl, from whom the author learned the “salamander smile”: “If a white girl tries to tell you what your brown skin can and cannot wear for makeup, just remember the smile of an axolotl. The best thing to do in that moment is to just smile and smile, even if your smile is thin. The tighter your smile, the tougher you become.” Nezhukumatathil’s investigations, enhanced by Nakamura’s vividly rendered full-color illustrations, range across the world, from a rapturous rendering of monsoon season in her father’s native India to her formative years in Iowa, Kansas, and Arizona, where she learned from the native flora and fauna that it was common to be different. The corpse flower guided the author when she met her future husband, helping her to “clear out the sleaze, the unsavory, the unpleasant—the weeds—of the dating world” and “find a man who’d be happy when I bloomed.” Nezhukumatathil isn’t only interested in nature as metaphor. She once devoted most of a year’s sabbatical to the study of whale sharks, and she humanizes her experience of natural splendor to the point where observation and memory merge, where she can’t see or smell something without remembering the details of her environment when she first encountered it. Among other fascinating species, the author enlightens readers on the vampire squid, the bonnet macaque, and the red-spotted newt.

The writing dazzles with the marvel of being fully alive.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-57131-365-2

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Fans will blissfully revel in the intimate if restlessly delivered details in this perceptive memoir.

THE BEAUTY OF LIVING TWICE

The celebrated actor reflects on a life of success, activism, and cleansing self-discovery.

Stone (b. 1958) begins in the hospital in 2001, when a severe brain injury nearly ended her life. She then backtracks to her youth growing up with three siblings in the “snowbelt” of northwestern Pennsylvania. She excelled at school but distanced herself from an aloof, damaged mother, a woman who never had a chance “to imagine a life where she could be whatever she chose.” As a teenager, Stone waited tables while entering local beauty pageants, which led to Manhattan modeling jobs and a move to Hollywood in the early 1980s. The author breaks down her iconic roles in Basic Instinct and Casino. Regarding the controversial interrogation scene in the former, she writes, “there have been many points of view…but since I’m the one with the vagina in question, let me say: the other points of view are bullshit.” While sharing a host of madcap episodes throughout an eventful life, she also proudly describes her impressive “life of service,” her Buddhist faith, and the adoptions of three sons. She also contributes juicier stories about co-hosting the 2008 Cannes Film Festival with Madonna and the controversy that erupted following a stray comment to reporters. Stone then moves on to her “second life,” when she endured “the loss of all things we call dear,” including her father, marriage, health, and financial security. Though the memoir is unevenly, frenetically narrated, that will only deter readers unfamiliar with Stone’s persona. Delivering a barrage of self-reflective anecdotes, she is consistently candid, alternatingly tender and feisty, and always witty. In conclusion, Stone offers thoughts on wisdom, modesty, and vulnerability as well as some startling admissions about “being sexually abused throughout my life.” Encouragingly, Stone has reconciled with her mother. “Today,” she writes, “my mother and I are at the beginning of our relationship.”

Fans will blissfully revel in the intimate if restlessly delivered details in this perceptive memoir.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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