Sure to be one of the best memoirs of 2021.

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SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER

A MEMOIR

A potent coming-of-age memoir from a popular podcaster and BuzzFeed host.

Growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with an incarcerated father and a dangerously overburdened mother forced the author to develop effective pain management skills. In a book that shares a similar spirit with Tara Westover’s Educated, Ford tells the story of uniquely difficult circumstances with profound insight and detail about the tumults of childhood. “I seemed to have infinite patience for children,” she writes. “Unlike some adults, I never quit remembering what it was like to be one. Their small plights were familiar to me, as were their big feelings.” Readers may also see a connection to Tayari Jones' novel An American Marriage (2018), as both deal with the effect of a long prison sentence on a Black family, albeit from different angles. Ford begins her memoir with a letter from her father that reads, in part, "Ashley, don't take this the wrong way but come next year, I will have been incarcerated for twenty years, which means the letter that you wrote me was the first letter that you have written me in almost twenty years." In the next chapter, a few years later, the author learns that her father is getting out of prison. Because she was so young when he was incarcerated, her feelings about him were based mainly on the adoring letters she received over the years. Her father's unshakeable belief in her became her inner refuge from the tension, rage, and violence that dogged her childhood. As a child, she did not know what his crime was—and neither will readers for many chapters. Ford creates fully three-dimensional portraits of her mother, grandmother, and other key players, using a child's-eye view to show us their failings and the calculations, negotiations, and survival tactics she developed in response to them.

Sure to be one of the best memoirs of 2021.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-30597-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A thimbleful of fresh content lies buried in tales familiar and often told.

THE LAST DAYS OF JOHN LENNON

Beatlemania meets autopsy in the latest product from the Patterson factory.

The authors take more than half the book to reach John Lennon’s final days, which passed 40 years ago—an anniversary that, one presumes, provides the occasion for it. The narrative opens with killer Mark David Chapman talking to himself: “It’s like I’m invisible.” And how do we know that Chapman thought such a thing? Well, the authors aver, they’re reconstructing the voices in his head and other conversations “based on available third-party sources and interviews.” It’s a dubious exercise, and it doesn’t get better with noir-ish formulas (“His mind is a dangerous neighborhood”) and clunky novelistic stretches (“John Lennon wakes up, reaches for his eyeglasses. At first the day seems like any other until he realizes it’s a special one….He picks up the kitchen phone to greet his old songwriting partner, who’s called to wish him all the best for the record launch”). In the first half of the book, Patterson and company reheat the Beatles’ origin story and its many well-worn tropes, all of which fans already know in detail. Allowing for the internal monologue, things improve somewhat once the narrative approaches Chapman’s deranged act—300-odd pages in, leaving about 50 pages for a swift-moving account of the murder and its aftermath, which ends with Chapman in a maximum-security cell where “he will be protected from the ugliness of the outside world….The cell door slides shut and locks. Mark David Chapman smiles. I’m home.” To their credit, the authors at least don’t blame Lennon’s “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” for egging on the violence that killed him, but this book pales in comparison to Kenneth Womack’s John Lennon 1980 and Philip Norman’s John Lennon: The Life, among many other tomes on the Fab Four.

A thimbleful of fresh content lies buried in tales familiar and often told.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42906-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2021

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