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Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell

David Yaffe. FSG/Crichton, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-374-24813-0

Drawing on in-depth interviews with Mitchell, her friends, and her musical associates, Yaffe (Fascinating Rhythm) paints a colorful and riveting portrait of a songwriter who has continually broken boundaries and explored new musical territories. In lively, bright prose, Yaffe traces Roberta Joan Anderson from her birth in Alberta, Canada, in 1943, through her early bout of polio, her marriage to Chuck Mitchell in 1964 (when she changed her name to Joni Mitchell), and the birth of her daughter in 1965. Yaffe describes Mitchell’s steely resolve to make her own art, her emergence as a voice of her generation, her creative struggles in the 1980s and 1990s, and her recent recovery from a brain aneurysm. He brilliantly guides readers through Mitchell’s evolution as a musician with vivid descriptions of the making of each of her albums from Song to a Seagull (“If drums and an electric guitar had been added to the mix, Joni would have produced some acid rock herself”) through Shine in 2007. Yaffe introduces readers to the musicians with whom Mitchell worked, including Leonard Cohen, Graham Nash, Judy Collins, and Charles Mingus. The combination of fine writing and extensive access make this the definitive biography of a gifted songwriter and musician. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal

Edited by Kiera Ladner and Myra Tait. ARP (U.S. dist., AK Press; LitDistCo, Canadian dist.), $29.95 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-1-894037-89-1

Published to coincide with celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation, this insightful compendium of largely Indigenous voices challenges all Canadians to improve relations with and conditions for the continent’s First Nations Peoples. Poems, essays, interviews, song lyrics, and illustrations bring a razor-sharp clarity to historic and contemporary issues, including the shameful history of residential schools, current reconciliation efforts, conflicts over resource development, and how best to confront legacies of racism and colonialism. The editors’ aim to provide an accessible educational tool is well-served by coverage of diverse topics, including over-representation of Indigenous people in prison, land dispossession, and how social amnesia prevents progress. Equally impressive is the recovery of repressed histories, such as First Nations women’s suffrage struggles, how the city of Winnipeg was built with stolen water, and the critical battle to preserve language rights. Contributors including the late actor Chief Dan George, singer-songwriter Buffy Saint-Marie, and a number of writers and activists, such as Erica Violet Lee and Helen Knott share feelings of anger and disappointment at past and ongoing injustices, as well as an incredible hope that an insistent resilience that has marked Indigenous existence in Canada will help spark a new awakening for all Canadians. (June)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood

Pauline Dakin. Viking Canada, $16 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7352-3322-5

CBC journalist Dakin’s memoir will surprise readers with its account of a strange childhood and youth distorted by the delusions of the man her mother trusted. After her parents divorced, Dakin’s life with her mother and brother was filled with uncertainty, secrets and fears. Her mother uprooted the family twice without explanation. The only constant in their lives was the preacher Stan Sears, a close friend of the family who became a surrogate father to Dakin and her brother. When Dakin was a young woman, her mother and Stan told her that her biological father worked for the mafia and that the family had been under the protection of a secret crime task force. Eventually, skepticism outweighed her trust, and she discovered that the story was a web of deceit woven by Stan, part of a delusional disorder in an otherwise high-functioning individual. Her mother had been a victim of that deceit, and the book follows Dakin’s efforts to confront both of them with the truth and her own journey back to reality. This is a riveting read about lives warped by misplaced trust, but Dakin also tells it as an inspiring story about the power of love to overcome anger and replace it with understanding, forgiveness, and compassion. Agent: Shaun Bradley, Transatlantic. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Being Kurdish in a Hostile World

Ayub Nuri. Univ. of Regina (IPS, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $21.95 trade paper (350p) ISBN 978-0-88977-494-0

Nuri, a translator and journalist, offers an elegant account of growing up among one of the largest dispossessed minorities on the planet. He was born into a Kurdish family in Halabja, Iraq; his childhood was marked by the Iran-Iraq war, brutal repression, and Saddam Hussein’s notorious 1988 chemical weapons attacks. His family was uprooted after learning they had become targets of the regime, leading to three years in Iranian refugee camps in the late 1980s. Nuri’s short, accessible chapters situate personal anecdotes—being injured as a youngster by exploding shrapnel, his father’s stint as a resistance fighter—in a broader historical, political, and social context. There are memorable moments of grace and redemption, including border guards who refuse to harass fleeing refugees and discovering benefits of Kurdish identity, allowing Nuri to safely navigate the increasingly violent sectarian Sunni-Shia divide that still plagues Iraq. While the personal part of this memoir comes to an abrupt halt following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq—leaving readers wondering what happened to Nuri and his family in the interim—it is nonetheless an eminently readable work that introduces readers to a vulnerable people who garner occasional headlines but little concern or support internationally. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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I’m Fine... and Other Lies

Whitney Cummings. Putnam, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1260-2

Cummings, comedian and cocreator of the television shows Whitney and 2 Broke Girls, shows in this witty and sincere memoir how she learned to use humor early on, both to get attention as the youngest and to deflect familial cruelty. She recounts getting an embarrassing bowl haircut when she was eight that put her on the receiving end of a “Cummings family roast” for months; this taught her to stay strong and laugh it off, but that practice slowly destroyed her self-esteem. Cummings is a gifted storyteller, skillfully mixing funny anecdotes—about her dogs, the men she’s dated, and the strippers she’s tried to help with money and career advice—with several truly harrowing moments. She writes honestly of the self-inflicted suffering she endured during a 15-year bout with an eating disorder, the near-rape by an ex-boyfriend, and an assault by a stranger after which she didn’t think to seek therapy. When she eventually began working with a therapist later in life, she found one who encouraged her discuss the incident for the first time. She also learned to identify damaging behavior patterns using, among other tools, the Grinberg Method, which encourages people to cry out repressed grief. Her experiences will resonate deeply with those who battle low self worth and codependency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Way It Was: My Life with Frank Sinatra

Eliot Weisman and Jennifer Valoppi. Hachette, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-47008-7

In pedestrian prose, Weisman, Sinatra’s manager from the late 1970s and the executor of Sinatra’s estate, piles story upon story as he tells his own tale of his life with Sinatra and Sinatra’s family and friends. Weisman is clearly enamored of his boss, and he’s candid about Sinatra making his career: “If you had Sinatra as a friend, you didn’t need much else in life.” Weisman’s loyalty to Sinatra involved doing time for bank fraud, despite his claimed innocence, rather than implicating his client, and he emerged from prison with a new vision for the management of his clients; in his concern for their long-term financial well-being, he worked hard at marketing, promoting, and selling their shows so that “everyone left me better off than when they started.” Weisman acknowledges Sinatra’s mercurial nature, revealing that it grew out of the singer’s bouts of depression. He praises Sinatra’s work ethic, his commitment to his fans, and his ability to deliver a triple platinum album, Duets, toward the end of his career. While Weisman’s story offers few new insights about Sinatra, he does provide a glimpse into the challenging life of a manager. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse

Rich Cohen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-12092-4

Cohen (Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football) offers an energetic account of the drought between the Chicago Cubs’ 1908 World Series win and their incredible triumph in 2016. He nicely details the team’s ups and downs over those 108 years and intersperses his narrative with recollections from his own childhood and early-adult obsession in the 1970s and 80s with the team. His depiction of Cubs lore (“some worldly, some mystical”), such as the glory of first baseman Ernie Banks (“the perfect cub, ideally suited for the role of a great player on a terrible team” from 1953 to 1971) and the near misses of the 1969, 1984, and 2003 seasons, is coupled with informative writing that’s infused with the fatalism of a long-suffering Cubs fan. (He notes that Cubs General Manager Epstein said it would take five years to win a World series, “the same amount of time Stalin said he’d need to create a workers’ paradise.”) He shows how the legendary “curse” on the Cubs has taken many forms over 100 years, such as the curse of the billy goat in the 1945 World Series. The final third of the book is an exciting look at the Cubs’ winning 2016 season that includes a game-by-game description of the playoffs. This book has something new even for the most hardcore Cubs fans. (June)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State

Nadia Murad. Tim Duggan, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6043-4

Human rights activist Murad recounts her captivity in Iraq as a sabiya, or sex slave, held by ISIS in this brilliant and intense memoir. Murad and her entire Yazidi village in Kocho were kidnapped by members of ISIS on August 3, 2014. Yazidis are a Kurdish religious minority, traditionally farmers who settled in the outskirts of cities, Murad lived outside of Mosul, which was also captured by ISIS militants in 2014. In the early morning of August 3rd, ISIS rounded up Murad’s village, killed the men, and kidnapped the women. The young women and girls were separated from their mothers and trafficked as sex slaves for ISIS, and Murad was forced to convert to Islam by her vicious captor Haji Salman. Sabiyas are used by ISIS to recruit more ISIS militants. Murad writes, “Every Sabiya has a story like mine. You can’t imagine the atrocities ISIS is capable of until you hear about them from your sisters and cousins, your neighbors and your schoolmates.... The men were all the same: they were all terrorists who thought it was their right to hurt us.” Murad miraculously managed to escape her captivity and reunite with what remained of her family to become a refugee in Kurdistan. She is now an advocate who speaks out for protection and justice to be restored to all the women kidnapped, trafficked, and enslaved by ISIS. This book is a clear-eyed account of ISIS’s cruelty and the devastation caused by the war in Iraq. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-Year Battle between Marvel and DC

Reed Tucker. Da Capo, $27 (304 p) ISBN 978-0-306-82546-0

Pop culture writer Tucker (The Osbournes Unf**king Authorized) delivers a well-written and entertaining look at the decades-long battle between the two titans of the comic book business, Marvel and DC. Tucker knows his history, and he starts with an excellent overview of how DC was “the undisputed leader in the spandex game” from its 1938 introduction of Superman until Marvel brought out the Fantastic Four in 1961. This helped the upstart company “establish itself as the edgier, hipper alternative to stodgy old DC.” Throughout, Tucker easily discusses both artistic and commercial issues, describing in detail how Marvel’s “new approach to storytelling” emphasizing realism “still provides the template today that has made superheroes a multi-billion, multi-media cash cow” and examining the myriad ways the two companies have spent years “clawing for market share and trying to kneecap each other in ways both above board and below.” Older comics fans will delight in Tucker’s astute telling of how Marvel kingpins Stan Lee and Jack Kirby spent the 1960s eclipsing their DC rivals, and newer fans will be fascinated by Tucker’s in-depth description of how DC’s gamble on grittier work such as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns produced “what is perhaps the most fertile period in the company’s—and the industry’s—history.” This is an excellent history for comic book fans. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Good Mood Kitchen: Simple Recipes and Nutrition Tips for Emotional Balance

Leslie Korn. Norton, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-3937-1222-3

Underscoring the connection between diet and mental health, Korn, a clinical traumatologist specializing in mental health nutrition and integrative medicine, argues that optimal nutrition prevents and treats mental illness. She asserts that mental illness is often accompanied by a poor diet and digestive problems and offers up a step-by-step process to revamp one’s diet with mental health–focused recipes and tips. She recommends completing a diary for three days to record food intake, mood, and exercise, which is intended to enhance awareness of what one is eating and the resulting energy level and attitude. Korn stresses the benefits of meal planning, prepping for meals a week at a time, and eliminating the microwave, which she says alters the molecular structure of food and its health benefits. She offers valuable insight into digestion, sharing steps to address common ailments including acid reflux and hemorrhoids. Recipes are healthy and appealing, including salmon chowder; arugula, fig, and peach salad; stuffed cabbage; and curried quinoa. Chock full of beneficial tools including shopping lists and a chapter on mood-aiding vitamins and nutrients, this worthwhile guide will convince readers that nutrition is an important influence on mental health. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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