Fresh readings of a much-loved classic.



Louisa May Alcott’s fictional sisters still captivate contemporary readers.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Little Women, four writers offer thoughtful reflections about the famous March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Journalist Bolick (Becoming a Hairstylist, 2019, etc.) recalls that when she was young, Meg seemed unappealing to her, “the quintessential good girl of morality tales,” defined by her prettiness. Alcott’s message, Bolick decided, “was that pretty is a prison. If, like Meg, you are pretty, you can’t also be a writer, or an artist.” As an adult, though, Bolick came to realize that rather than represent sharply contrasting identities, the sisters need to be taken as a whole “to embody different aspects of the female experience,” inviting the reader “to imagine herself into a variety of personalities.” Poet and fiction writer Zhang (Sour Heart, 2017, etc.) recounts her changing responses to Jo, whom at first she hated for “her boyishness, her impetuousness, her obliviousness” to “feminine preening,” and her lack of interest in romance. Yet as she dedicated herself to writing, perhaps at the cost of marriage and children, Zhang came to understand—and to share—Jo’s ambivalence about her choices. Essayist and fiction writer Machado (Her Body and Other Parties, 2017) considers Lizzie Alcott, Louisa’s sister and the model for modest, undemanding Beth. Lizzie, though, was hardly sweet and docile but instead “snarky and strange and funny and kind and suffered tremendously and died angry at the world.” Transformed into a literary character, she has been effaced. “How do you keep other people from making you a Beth?” Machado wonders. “How do you stay out of other people’s stories?” Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Smiley (Golden Age, 2015, etc.) considers Amy, who, as the youngest, learns to be observant, flexible, and practical. More than her sisters, Amy “goes about shaping her life in a conscious manner”; she becomes, for Smiley, a “modern woman.” Besides focusing on Amy, Smiley offers a sensitive assessment of Marmee’s mothering, which often reveals a surprising lack of empathy.

Fresh readings of a much-loved classic.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59853-628-7

Page Count: 194

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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