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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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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A sharp, entertaining view of the news media from one of its star players.

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GOING THERE

The veteran newscaster reflects on her triumphs and hardships, both professional and private.

In this eagerly anticipated memoir, Couric (b. 1957) transforms the events of her long, illustrious career into an immensely readable story—a legacy-preserving exercise, for sure, yet judiciously polished and insightful, several notches above the fray of typical celebrity memoirs. The narrative unfolds through a series of lean chapters as she recounts the many career ascendency steps that led to her massively successful run on the Today Show and comparably disappointing stints as CBS Evening News anchor, talk show host, and Yahoo’s Global News Anchor. On the personal front, the author is candid in her recollections about her midlife adventures in the dating scene and deeply sorrowful and affecting regarding the experience of losing her husband to colon cancer as well as the deaths of other beloved family members, including her sister and parents. Throughout, Couric maintains a sharp yet cool-headed perspective on the broadcast news industry and its many outsized personalities and even how her celebrated role has diminished in recent years. “It’s AN ADJUSTMENT when the white-hot spotlight moves on,” she writes. “The ego gratification of being the It girl is intoxicating (toxic being the root of the word). When that starts to fade, it takes some getting used to—at least it did for me.” Readers who can recall when network news coverage and morning shows were not only relevant, but powerfully influential forces will be particularly drawn to Couric’s insights as she tracks how the media has evolved over recent decades and reflects on the negative effects of the increasing shift away from reliable sources of informed news coverage. The author also discusses recent important cultural and social revolutions, casting light on issues of race and sexual orientation, sexism, and the predatory behavior that led to the #MeToo movement. In that vein, she expresses her disillusionment with former co-host and friend Matt Lauer.

A sharp, entertaining view of the news media from one of its star players.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53586-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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