WHEN YOUR BACK'S AGAINST THE WALL

FAME, FOOTBALL, AND LESSONS LEARNED THROUGH A LIFETIME OF ADVERSITY

An extended pep talk best suited for devotees of self-help books.

The former NFL player and movie subject combines a grim picture of poverty with a program for lifting oneself up.

Oher, the protagonist of Michael Lewis’ book The Blind Side and the 2009 film made from it, aged out of the foster care system and lived for several years on the streets before attending a private school and earning academic and athletic achievements. Both book and movie painted a rather rosier picture of his life than the reality. “Yes, there were the occasional hands held out to give me temporary relief,” writes the author, “but day in and day out it was just me and my own efforts.” He doesn’t mean to be ungrateful, but he suggests that anyone in a similar situation “requires individual lifelong dedication to persistent action in the face of adversity.” In the Memphis community in which he grew up, notes the author, few people seemed interested in getting a job and working one’s way upward. Oher mixes his advice with lessons from his pro football career—which, owing to frequent injury, was short-lived—including the mantra “Be a pro.” Of broader application, since not everyone can sign lucrative contracts with the NFL, are more quotidian cheers: Be positive. Take responsibility for your actions. Learn constantly since knowledge is “the real currency of the world” and allows one “to shape your life the way you want it.” Much of the advice would seem humdrum if Oher weren’t able to back it up with plentiful examples from his own struggles, including the depression that followed his forced retirement from football, struggles that he likens to treading water; “what got me through those hard times was dreaming of the day when I could stop treading and just rest.”

An extended pep talk best suited for devotees of self-help books.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023

ISBN: 9780593330920

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Avery

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 35


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 35


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

Close Quickview