Overcoming racism, homophobia, bullying, and abuse, a theatrical star is born.

UNPROTECTED

A MEMOIR

Debut memoir from the celebrated actor and singer, who has won Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.

Growing up in the 1970s in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, which had “been a center of Black life in Pittsburgh for more than a century,” Porter felt like “an outcast” and was mercilessly bullied. Although recognized for his "clear and open-throated gospel boy soprano" in the Friendship Baptist Church Choir, "every time I showed up at church, the sermon would turn to the abomination of homosexual activity, of men lying with men. There was no apparent reason for this topic to surface so relentlessly. I couldn’t help feeling that somehow they knew about me." He also suffered sexual abuse by his stepfather twice a week for five years. However, blessed with a powerful voice, flair for auditioning, and relentless work ethic, Porter worked his way to the very pinnacles of his profession. He won Best Actor in a Musical for his role in Kinky Boots in addition to an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his work on the TV show Pose. Porter doesn't conceal his many struggles along the way, including bankruptcy and living with diabetes and HIV. He focuses more on his triumphs, such as his sensational appearance as red carpet co-host at the 2019 Academy Awards or his entrance to the 2019 Met Gala, when he arrived on a litter carried by six shirtless men in a "Sun God" ensemble that included "a bejeweled catsuit outfitted with 10-foot wings [and] a 24-karat gold headpiece." Throughout, the author intersperses italicized passages that explore present-day issues, including the pandemic, but these attempts at timeliness are upstaged by his remarkable life story. Porter’s passionate support for music and art programs in public schools, as well as gay rights activism, are clear, but his first duty has always been to his work. "Your service is leaning into your truth," he advises, "your queerness, your authenticity."

Overcoming racism, homophobia, bullying, and abuse, a theatrical star is born.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4619-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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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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