No matter a reader's personal politics, Omar's life should serve as an inspiration.

THIS IS WHAT AMERICA LOOKS LIKE

MY JOURNEY FROM REFUGEE TO CONGRESSWOMAN

The first African refugee elected to Congress tells her unique story.

By any measure, Omar's trajectory is dramatic and remarkable: Born in 1982 into a loving, stable family in Mogadishu, Somalia, she was displaced at age 8 by the civil war that killed hundreds of thousands in her home country. She escaped to neighboring Kenya and spent four years in a squalid, dangerous refugee camp. After being screened by immigration authorities, she and her family were allowed into the U.S. They spent two years in New York City and then moved to Arlington, Virginia, where Omar was bullied constantly. Nonetheless, and even though she knew very little English, she was determined to learn. Landing in Minneapolis a few years later, Omar blossomed into a leader at her high school. In 2009, she relocated to North Dakota to earn a college degree, and, upon her return to Minneapolis, she became involved in local politics. In 2018, she and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan “became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.” As a junior member of the House of Representatives, she gained notoriety for her grace in the face of attacks by Donald Trump aimed at her ethnicity, dark skin tone, religion, citizenship, and political advocacy. Naturally, Omar feels confused and angered by Trump and many of his fellow Republicans. Refreshingly and wisely, however, she waits until Page 225 before turning her attention to Trump’s petty tactics. Her trajectory to that point is impressive and compelling. It’s clear that the author has always made her own way while struggling to find her role among her beloved family members, not all of whom approved of her path. Page after page, Omar is by turns fierce, self-deprecating, and confident, and, with the assistance of Paley, she has produced a smoothly readable narrative.

No matter a reader's personal politics, Omar's life should serve as an inspiration.

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295421-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

PLAYING WITH MYSELF

Debut memoir from the popular comedian, actor, and writer.

In his debut memoir, Rainbow (“my very real last name”) shares his memories, beginning with his star turn in a backyard production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on his eighth birthday. Growing up on Long Island with a “showbiz-positive family,” the author depicts a flamboyant childhood influenced by his grandmother and her celebrity fascinations. “My eight-year-old childhood bedroom,” he notes, “looked more like the men’s room at a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen.” Rainbow’s engagement with ballet classes and musical theater provoked relentless schoolyard bullying until a family move to Florida introduced him to the unique strengths to be found in coming out and celebrating his obsession with his “lord and savior,” Barbra Streisand. As his parents’ relationship deteriorated, Manhattan beckoned. In between auditions, Rainbow worked as the “jovial gay boy at the host stand” at Hooters. Honing his stand-up comedy skills, he started a blog, which branched off into a series of comedic video sketches that satirized, among other topics, a fictional relationship with Mel Gibson and a tryout for American Idol. When Rainbow began delving into political parodies, particularly his skewering of the chaotic 2016 presidential campaign, his fame exploded. “For the first few years of Trump,” he writes, “I basically lived inside a giant green screen.” Still, he admits that his career has been a constant hustle and that the isolating cross-country tours “ain’t for sissies.” Rapidly paced comic absurdities fill the remainder of the book, as the author provides anecdotes about his struggles to remain upbeat and social media relevant in the fickle entertainment world despite multiple Emmy nominations. In the concluding chapters, the author openly discusses the public backlash from past controversial comments on Twitter, which he attributes to “sloppy efforts as a young comedian” to be funny. Buoyant and campy throughout, Rainbow’s revelations and lighthearted banter will entertain fans and newbies alike.

A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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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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