July 2022 MBR Review The Biography Shelf

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Midwest Book Review

Aug 1, 2022, 2:14:16 PMAug 1
The Biography Shelf

Prince Eugene of Savoy
James Falkner
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (US distribution)
9781526753533, $42.95, HC, 232pp


Synopsis: Prince Eugene of Savoy-Carignan (1663-1736), French born of an Italian mother, was destined for the church, but fled France as a young man and chose the life of a soldier. He entered the service of the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I in 1683 and rose rapidly to become one of the greatest military commanders of the age, playing a leading role in the wars against both the Ottoman Turks and the French.

With the publication of "Prince Eugene of Savoy: A Genius for War Against Louis XIV and the Ottoman Empire", historian James Falkner provides the first full biography of Eugene to be published in English for forty years, and reconstructs his military campaigns in compelling detail, as well as describing his career as a politician and statesman.

Eugene first showed his military genius during the siege of Vienna in 1683 where the Ottoman Turkish threat to western Europe was thrown back, and he commanded the Imperial army at the resounding victory over the Ottomans at Zenta in 1697. Most famously for English readers, he joined John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough in the victory over the French at Blenheim in 1704 and served alongside Marlborough at the subsequent victories at Oudenarde and Malplaquet. His later triumph, again over the Ottomans, at the capture of Belgrade in 1717, sealed his reputation as a great captain.

A lifelong bachelor and fond of women, Eugene was both a typical hard-bitten soldier and an accomplished diplomat, as well as a great patron of the arts. His summer palace, The Belvedere in Vienna, stands today as a fine monument to this extraordinary man.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and informative, as well as featuring maps, illustrations, a Chronology of the Lifer of Eugene, a Note on Terminology, Nomenclasture and Dating, and Appendix (The Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian Empire and the Habsburg Monarchy), eleven pages of Notes, a three page Bibliography, and a nine page Index, "Prince Eugene of Savoy: A Genius for War Against Louis XIV and the Ottoman Empire" is a masterpiece of historical biography and will prove to be a highly prized addition to community, college, and university library European History & Military Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Prince Eugene of Savoy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.00).

Editorial Note: James Falkner is a leading authority on eighteenth-century warfare and he has made a special study of the military exploits of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. His book, Great and Glorious Days: Marlborough's Battles 1704-1709, is one of the outstanding studies of the subject. His other books include Blenheim 1704, Ramillies 1706, Marlborough Goes to War: Eyewitness Accounts 1702-1713, Marlborough's Sieges, Marlborough's Battlefields, Fire Over the Rock: The Great Siege of Gibraltar 1779-1783, Marshal Vauban and the Defence of Louis XIV's France, Marlborough's War Machine and The War of the Spanish Succession, 1701-1714.

Soldier, Rebel, Traitor
Alexander R. Brondarbit
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (US distribution)
9781399003476, $34.95, HC, 224pp


Synopsis: John Wenlock, first Lord Baron of Wenlock (c.1400/04 - 4 May 1471), was a leading diplomat, courtier and soldier during the Wars of the Roses whose remarkable career offers us a fascinating insight into one of the most turbulent periods in English medieval history. And yet he has hitherto been overshadowed by his more illustrious contemporaries.

With the publications of "Soldier, Rebel, Traitor: John, Lord Wenlock and the Wars of the Roses", historian Alexander Brondarbit has provided a meticulously researched and perceptively informative biography bringing this historical character out of an undeserved obscurity. It establishes Lord Wenlock as a major figure in his own right and records in vivid detail how this shrewd nobleman found his way through the brutal conflicts of his times.

Lord Wenlock served in Henry V's military campaigns in France in the 1420s before moving on to a career in the royal households of Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and Edward IV. As a diplomat, he led multiple embassies to Burgundy and France and, in addition to the kings he served, he was closely connected with other notable figures of the age such as Richard Neville, earl of Warwick. But Lord Wenlock's speciality was on the battlefield where he took part in many raids, skirmishes and sieges and in three major battles including the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 where he lost his life.

Using primary sources as well as contemporary assessments in chronicles and letters, Alexander Brondarbit gives a nuanced description of the main episodes in Wenlock's long career and throws new light on the motivation of a man who has been labeled a 'Prince of Turncoats' because of his frequent changes of allegiance.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative historical biography that is especially recommended for community and academic library British History and Military Biography collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, "Soldier, Rebel, Traitor: John, Lord Wenlock and the Wars of the Roses" is further for students and academia with the inclusion of maps, a list of abbreviations, a glossary, twenty-two pages of notes, a ten page bibliography, and an eight page Index. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, historians, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest historical European military biographies that "Soldier, Rebel, Traitor: John, Lord Wenlock and the Wars of the Roses" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Dr Alexander Brondarbit is a medieval historian and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society whose research is focused on late medieval English politics and the Wars of the Roses. In addition to a number of academic papers and magazine articles on these subjects, he is the author of Power-Brokers and the Yorkist State, 1461-1485. His previous appointments include lecturing on medieval history at Oregon State University and the University of Winchester. He is currently an Academic Planning Analyst at UC Santa Cruz.

"No Man Knows This Country Better"
Gary S. Williams
The University of Akron Press
30 Amberwood Parkway, Ashland, OH 44805
9781629221489, $59.95, HC, 200pp


Synopsis: With the publication of ""No Man Knows This Country Better": The Frontier Life of John Gibson" by Gary S. Williams, the reader is introduced to an unheralded hero among our nation's Founding Fathers who worked with seven Presidents, knew a dozen Continental Army generals, and served as an officer of increasing rank in every frontier conflict between 1758 and 1813.

During the American Revolution, John Gibson (May 23, 1740 - April 10, 1822) led a regiment at Valley Forge, was in command of Fort Laurens during a month-long Indian siege, and by the time of the Yorktown Campaign was commander of the Western Department at Fort Pitt. From the time he was nearly burned at the stake during Pontiac's Conspiracy through his service as Governor of Indiana Territory during the War of 1812, he consistently served with courage and integrity.

But it was more than just his military record that makes Gibson stand out. As an Indian trader on the frontier, Gibson's reputation for honesty and his ability to master several Native American languages made him a valuable treaty negotiator and an important cross-cultural figure. His fairness towards Native Americans extended to his personal life as he was a single father to two mixed race children.

Gibson was not without enemies in his lengthy career. Simon Girty hated him, Albert Gallatin called him incompetent, and some of his own neighbors threatened to scalp him for being overly partial to Indians, and to hang him for supporting the federal government during the Whiskey Rebellion. But Gibson stood tall as a citizen and public servant, and his efforts to help establish our nation and to expand and protect its borders makes his life synonymous with his times.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an eight page Bibliography, twenty-two pages of Notes, and a nine page Index, "No Man Knows This Country Better": The Frontier Life of John Gibson is a thoroughly researched, extraordinarily informative, and exceptionally well written biography that lifts from an undeserved obscurity a key figure in Colonial America, the American Revolution, and 18th and Century Native American history. An extraordinary work of original scholarship, "No Man Knows This Country Better": The Frontier Life of John Gibson" is an especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community, college, and university library American Political & Military Biography collections, as well as American Revolution and Native American History supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Gary S. Williams is a retired librarian who has written many articles on Ohio nature and history, as well as four books on Ohio history and a guide to hiking Ohio. He has a B.A. in History from Marietta College and a Masters in Library Science from Kent State University.

Edward I's Regent
Michael Ray
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (US distribution)
9781399093545, $49.95, HC, 280pp


Synopsis: Born at Christmas 1249 to Richard, Edmund of Cornwall was nephew to Henry III and cousin to Edward I. His eventful childhood took him to Germany when his father was elected king there. He was captured at the battle of Lewes and imprisoned for more than a year. Returning from crusade, he witnessed the brutal murder of his half-brother, which left him as heir to his father, the richest man in the kingdom.

Throughout his life, Edmund played a crucial role in medieval England. As Regent of England, Earl of Cornwall and the richest man in the land, he was a leading force of the late-thirteenth century.

With the publication of "Edward I's Regent: Edmund of Cornwall, The Man Behind England's Greatest King", historian and biographer Michael Ray considers Edmund's life, his use of his wealth to lend to the king and others and to be a major benefactor of religious houses. His piety saw him found two new religious houses, rebuild another and bring the Holy Blood relic from Germany to Hailes abbey. His record as Regent of England for three years is assessed. The wide spread of his lands, which included 13 castles and more than 800 places in 27 counties, and his tenants are set out as is his place in the local community.

The basis of his wealth and its sources, including money from his lands but also from tin mining and marine dues in Cornwall, is also explored and his knightly affinity and his close associates and officials are considered. On a personal level, "Edward I's Regent: Edmund of Cornwall, The Man Behind England's Greatest King" examines his unsuccessful, childless marriage with the sister of the Earl of Gloucester.

Edmund was a key figure throughout Edward I's rein and the late-thirteenth century. "Edward I's Regent: Edmund of Cornwall, The Man Behind England's Greatest King" is an insightful and detailed account of the man behind England's 'greatest king'.

Critique: Meticulous researched, impressively informative, exceptional in organization and presentation, "Edward I's Regent: Edmund of Cornwall, The Man Behind England's Greatest King" by Michael Lum rescues from an undeserved obscurity a critically important figure in 13th Century European history, "Edward I's Regent: Edmund of Cornwall, The Man Behind England's Greatest King" by Michael Lum is a critically important and commended addition to personal reading lists, community library collections, and academic supplemental Medieval British & European History studies lists.

Editorial Note: After school in Shropshire, Michael Ray read geography and town planning at King's and University Colleges, London. Retiring early from a planning career, he returned to KCL and obtained a PhD after a study of aliens in thirteenth-century England. He has since been published in books, journals and on websites including Academia.

Antarctic Pioneer
Joanna Kafarowski
The Dundurn Group
9781459749535, $21.99, PB, 304pp


Synopsis: Jackie Ronne (October 13, 1919 - June 14, 2009) was an ordinary American woman whose life changed after a blind date with rugged Antarctic explorer Finn Ronne. After marrying, they began planning the 1946-1948 Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition. Her participation was not welcomed by the expedition team of red-blooded males eager to prove themselves in the frozen, hostile environment of Antarctica.

On March 12, 1947, Jackie Ronne became the first American woman in Antarctica and, months later, one of the first women to overwinter there.

The Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition secured its place in Antarctic history, but its scientific contributions have been overshadowed by conflicts and the dangerous accidents that occurred. Jackie dedicated her life to Antarctica: she promoted the achievements of the expedition and was a pioneer in polar tourism and an early supporter of the Antarctic Treaty. In doing so, she helped shape the narrative of twentieth-century Antarctic exploration.

Critique: Rescuing from an undeserved obscurity, "Antarctic Pioneer: The Trailblazing Life of Jackie Ronne" is the extraordinary biography of a woman who succeeded in an activity that was historical considered to be the exclusive domain of men. Informative enhanced with the inclusion of black-and-white photography, an informative Prologue & Epilogue, a 'Women in Antarctica Map, two Appendices, eighteen pages of Notes, a twenty-eight page Bibliography, and a six page Index, "Antarctic Pioneer: The Trailblazing Life of Jackie Ronne" by biographer Joanna Kafarwski is a compelling and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Women's Biography collections in general, and Antarctica History in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non- specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Antarctic Pioneer: The Trailblazing Life of Jackie Ronne" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Joanna Kafarowski is passionate about researching and writing about the lives of women in polar history. She is also the author of "The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame: A Life of Louise Arner Boyd", which is the first comprehensive biography of a female Arctic explorer. She has an informative website at https://joannakafarowski.com

Home, My Story of House and Personal Restoration
M. G. Barlow
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684337767, $18.95, PB, 189pp


Synopsis: In childhood, M.G. adores her old family house as if it were a guardian with heart and soul. After her mother dies, her father soon remarries and sends her brothers and her, one at a time, off to live with older siblings. M.G. buries her affection for that home, along with the family divisions and pain of her mother's departure. She becomes that kid -- the one who falls through the cracks, and stumbles into adulthood wrecked, scarred, and undisciplined.

All the while, another vintage house, busy protecting an immigrant family in an historic mill community awaits. Years later as an adult, M.G. falls in love with the place, despite its cracked cement, broken stoop, and the chipmunks whizzing in and out from under a door. As M.G. researches her home and repairs its broken parts, she discovers the gradual personal restoration that ensues as a result.

With the publication of "Home, My Story of House and Personal Restoration: A Memoir", M. G. Barlow deftly braids the history of a New England house and town with teachings of motherhood, loss, and tradition -- plus a little romance and humor along the way.

Critique: An absorbing, thought-provoking, entertaining, and memorable account, "Home, My Story of House and Personal Restoration: A Memoir" is an impressively written and fully engaging read that will have a special appeal to anyone struggling with grief, bereavement, suicide, and family disappointments and disillusions. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography & Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Home, My Story of House and Personal Restoration: A Memoir" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: M.G. Barlow graduated magna cum laude from Clark University and was a journalist in central Massachusetts. She has also written extensively about diseases, life sciences products, and on the business of healthcare for commercial organizations. She maintains a website at https://www.mgbarlow.com

Uncredited: The Life and Career of Virginia Gregg
Lona Bailey
BearManor Media
PO Box 71426, Albany, GA 31708
9781629339276, $45.00, HC, 544pp


Synopsis: Virginia Gregg (March 6, 1916 - September 15, 1986) had one of the most recognizable faces and voices in American media for over 40 years. In radio, television, and film, Virginia went largely uncredited for many of her legendary performances including "Norma Bates" from Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho.

In radio she was a favorite on classics like Dragnet, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

On television she was a regular guest on shows such as Dragnet, Gunsmoke, and The Twilight Zone.

In film she gave her most memorable performances in productions including Psycho, Operation Petticoat, and Spencer's Mountain. Read the incredible story behind the familiar face and voice that until now has never been told.

"Uncredited" by biographer Lona Bailey is Virginia's life story of great tragedy, resilience, and perseverance far more compelling than that of any character she ever portrayed. Readers will discover the great lady behind the hundreds of unforgettable characters she gave our world.

Critique: An impressively detailed, exceptionally informative, well written and inherently fascinating biography that will lift Virginia Gregg from an undeserved obscurity, "Uncredited" will have a special and particular appeal to radio, television and film historians and non-specialist general readers with an interest in actor/entertainer biographies. While highly recommended as a well deserved addition to community, college, and university library Theatre/Cinema/Television History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Uncredited" is also available in a paperback edition (9781629339269, $35.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Our Laundry, Our Town
Alvin Eng
Empire State Editions
Fordham University Press
45 Columbus Avenue, Rm 312, New York, NY 10023
9781531500368, $27.95, 212pp


Synopsis: "Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond" is a memoir that decodes and processes the fractured urban oracle bones of Alvin Eng's upbringing in Flushing, Queens in the 1970s.

Back then, his family was one of the few immigrant Chinese families in a far-flung neighborhood in New York City. His parents had an arranged marriage and ran a Chinese Hand Laundry. From behind the counter of his parent's laundry and within the confines of a household that was rooted in a different century and culture, he sought to reconcile this insular home life with the turbulent yet inspiring street life that was all around them -- from the faux martial arts of tv's Kung Fu to the burgeoning underworld of the punk rock scene.

In the 1970s, NYC, like most of the world, was in the throes of regenerating itself in the wake of major social and cultural changes resulting from the Counterculture and Civil Rights movements. And by the 1980s, Flushing had become NYC's second Chinatown. But Eng remained one of the neighborhood's few Chinese citizens who could not speak fluent Chinese.

Finding his way in the downtown theater and performance world of Manhattan, he discovered the under-chronicled Chinese influence on Thornton Wilder's foundational Americana drama, Our Town. This discovery became the unlikely catalyst for a psyche-healing pilgrimage to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China (his ancestral home in southern China) that led to writing and performing his successful autobiographical monologue, The Last Emperor of Flushing. Learning to tell his own story on stages around the world was what proudly made him whole.

As cities, classrooms, cultures, and communities the world over continue to re-examine the parameters of diversity, equity, and inclusion, "Our Laundry, Our Town" will reverberate with a broad readership.

Critique: Providing an inherently interesting and informative perspective, "Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond" is a deftly crafted memoir that will prove to be an welcome addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography & Memoir collections and Asian American supplemental curriculum studies lists. Of special appeal to readers with an interest in playwriting, script writing, and the 20th Century Chinese emigrant assimilation experience, it should be noted that "Our Laundry, Our Town" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.49).

Editorial Note: Alvin Eng is a native New York City playwright, performer, acoustic punk raconteur, and educator. His plays and performances have been seen Off-Broadway, throughout the United States, as well as in Paris, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou, China. Eng is the interviewer/ editor of the oral history / play anthology Tokens? The NYC Asian American Experience on Stage (Temple University Press / Asian American Writers' Workshop). His plays, lyrics, and memoir excerpts have also been published in numerous anthologies. Eng's spoken-word videos, songs, storytelling, and commentary have been broadcast and streamed on National Public Radio among others. He is a a two-time appointee to the Fulbright Specialists roster of Theatre / U.S. Studies scholars and a three-time recipient of NYSCA/ NYFA Fellowships. He has an informative website is www.alvineng.com

Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains
Dawn Morgan
University of Regina Press
9780889778603, $89.00, HC, 392pp


Synopsis: A surprise rodeo leaves a buffalo bull dead and a cowboy gored to death. Seeing the death of the one man who was kind to him, and knowing it was his fault, Dawn Morgan's father goes on a bender and ends up dead. His sudden death and the mystery around it, combined with the blundering way Morgan learns of it, forces her to reflect not only on the events of the bloodied corral, but also the buffalo herds decimated and Indigenous Peoples displaced to make way for settlement in what was becoming ranching country in the prairies.

Unsettled is a deeply moving work of literary non-fiction, a probing memoir examining family tragedy in relation to stories (both fact and fiction) of settlers and Indigenous Peoples on the Great Plains. With the publication of "Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains", Morgan shares the internal struggle between resistance and allegiance to the settler-descendent stories she grew up with while paying respects to her father and documents the censorship she faces from her mother, loyal still to the pioneer myth of the early twentieth century.

It is only when both parents are gone that Morgan is liberated to write a story of reckoning on the northern Great Plains.

Critique: An extraordinary and compelling memoir, "Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains" by Dawn Morgan (Associate Professor of English at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada) will have a very special appeal and relevance to readers with an interest in European settlement of the Great Plains, resulting in the forcible removal of Indigenous tribes from the contested area. An impressive combination of biography and history, "Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Canadian Biography & Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Unsettled: A Reckoning on the Great Plains" is also available in a paperback edition (9780889778573, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.97).

Strong Ties
Katharine Ogden Michaels with Judith K. Adamson
Rare Bird Books
9781644282175, $25.00


Strong Ties: Barclay Simpson and the Pursuit of the Common Good in Business and Philanthropy belongs in memoir, business, and social issues libraries alike. It presents a powerful survey of California leader Barclay Simpson, whose ideals and drive embraced and changed the lives of many in the San Francisco Bay Area. Main author Katharine Ogden Michaels, a family friend and insider, captures the complexities and contradictions of Simpson with great subtlety and aplomb. Judith K. Adamson also contributed to this compelling biography.

Simpson was an unlikely candidate for such wide-ranging changes, and is proof that individuals can come from ordinary circumstances to become extraordinary influencers. His drive to save the family business, teetering on bankruptcy, would have been deserving of a story alone, but Simpson didn't stop with the family's wellbeing. He went on to pursue a vision of cooperative and mutual business activities which empowered his employees, then translated this microcosm of business success to the broader world, offering lessons and insights that changed the perspectives and nature of many other businesses in the Bay Area.

Many books provide discussions of how to give back to or involve communities in business pursuits. Few adopt the practical, real-world applications that Barclay Simpson fostered in his life and world, making Strong Ties an exceptionally powerful portrait of success. From concepts of transformational philanthropy to the projects Simpson successfully grew, readers gain insights not just into his life and philosophy, but on how these ideals translated to the real world. Simpson tried many things, and never quit. The book points out that "It is not just Barc and Sharon's generosity, but their motives for and methods of giving, that moves..."

Readers interested in business links to community growth and the process of developing transformational philanthropic pursuits will find no better starting place than Strong Ties, which should be in every library strong in business or philanthropical topics, and an intrinsic part of business and book discussion groups about how to improve the world.

Sister in a Brotherhood
Cindie Schooner-Ball
CK Books
9798985688108, $16.00, PB, 214pp


Synopsis: A groundbreaking female firefighter, Cindie Schooner-Ball lived for the thrill of riding backwards on a fire truck, code 3 with lights flashing, sirens wailing, heading toward an ominous cloud of black smoke. "Sister in a Brotherhood: Stories from My Life as a Female Firefighter" is her captivating memoir in which she vividly describes these high-adrenaline experiences and the stunned look on people's faces when she climbed off the truck and they realized she was a woman.

Hired in 1987 by a large urban Fire-Rescue Department in South Florida, Cindie rose through the ranks as a firefighter, driver-engineer, paramedic, and lieutenant. She retired as a captain after 28 years on the force. Throughout her career, she was often asked how she managed to thrive in this male-dominated profession, so she decided to write "Sister in a Brotherhood" to share her story of perseverance, grit, and commanding respect.

Through the stirring tales Cindie shares about grueling training, hard-as-nails leaders, and calls that ran the gamut from traumatic to humorous, you'll understand why firefighting is a calling and passion. She shares memorable moments working and living with people who are dedicated to helping others in crisis. Anyone who is fascinated by the work of first responders or who wants to serve will be enthralled, informed, and inspired by "Sister in a Brotherhood".

Critique: An inherently fascinating and candid memoir, "Sister in a Brotherhood: Stories from My Life as a Female Firefighter" by Cindie Schooner-Ball is a true life autobiographical account that reads with all the dramatic flair of a finely honed novel. As informative as it is inspirational, "Sister in a Brotherhood: Stories from My Life as a Female Firefighter" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography collections. With a special appeal for anyone with an interest in firefighting, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sister in a Brotherhood: Stories from My Life as a Female Firefighter" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Cindie Schooner-Ball began her 28-year career as a first responder with the fire service and as a paramedic in the mid-80s. To succeed as both a firefighter and a woman in a mostly male workplace required perseverance, grit, and the ability to command respect. When she finally achieved the rank of captain, she was the only woman at the induction ceremony. Now retired, she loves speaking to people about the important work of first responders.

Loose Cannons
Diana Cannon Ragsdale
Legacy Launch Pad Publishing
9781956955231, $30.95, HC, 408pp


Synopsis: Diana Cannon-Ragsdale was born into a Mormon dynasty. Her father Ted Cannon was a local celebrity in Salt Lake City, and her family's ancestors were contemporaries of Brigham Young -- and they had many dark secrets to keep.

Growing up at the mercy of her mother's depression and father's undiagnosed schizophrenia, Diana and her five siblings were left to fend for themselves as their mom and dad rotated in and out of psychiatric hospitals and police custody.

Finally, in 1966, Diana's mother left her family and the Mormon Church to start a new relationship with a woman, sending Diana's father into a tailspin.

With the publication of "Loose Cannons: A Memoir of Mania and Mayhem in a Mormon Family", Diana traces her rebellious 1970s girlhood-amidst her father's multiple suicide attempts and remarriage to her mother's sister. As she and her siblings barreled into adulthoods they weren't ready for, they tried to rely on each other while reproducing broken relationships of their own.

Eventually, after several divorces and while raising three children of her own, Diana reconnected with her estranged mother and inherited a lifetime's worth of her journals. After decades spent searching for answers, her mother's writing about swingers' parties, sexual abuse, ancient wounds and broken attempts at happiness -- reframing everything Diana thought she knew about her family and herself.

"Loose Cannons" is a harrowing and hilarious saga of a memoir spanning more than 60 years of multigenerational trauma and dysfunction-and the spiritual power it took to overcome it all.

Critique: Candid, informative, thought-provoking, compelling, fascinating, "Loose Cannons: A Memoir of Mania and Mayhem in a Mormon Family" will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in Mormonism, Child Abuse, and overcoming family trauma. While highly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Loose Cannons: A Memoir of Mania and Mayhem in a Mormon Family" is also available in a paperback edition (9781956955217, $17.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Diana Cannon-Ragsdale is an author, retired physical therapist and mental health advocate for survivors of abusive and dysfunctional families. Diana attended Utah State University on a dance scholarship and later graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor's degree in Health Sciences. In retirement, she has dedicated herself to travel and creativity.

To Where You Are
Jason Fisher
Warren Publishing, Inc.
9781954614963, $22.37 Hardcover/$16.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle


Memoir readers who look for stories of widowhood and single parenting will find an added element in To Where You Are. Jason Fisher not only lost his wife suddenly, but was in sole charge of his nonverbal daughter, who had a rare condition that challenged his parenting skills and ability to cope. His years of grief and trauma and his process of moving into an effective role not just in his daughter's life, but in his own cultivation of growth and achievement, creates a riveting story that operates on many different levels.

To Where You Are represents a dance between different worlds as Fisher tries to balance his daughter's needs with his wife's sudden medical emergency, only to find himself struggling alone. His experiences handling both his new responsibilities and emotional trauma are candidly related in a manner certain to prove familiar to those who have walked similar paths. While much of the story reviews his life with Mandy and their family challenges together, the story also presents many absorbing insights into the growth that emerges from loss and change.

The memoir's most powerful messages are couched in this process of realization and evolution, making To Where You Are a powerful illustration of navigating grief, change, and life. Libraries strong in memoirs about parenting special needs kids, and grief, will find that To Where You Are deserves a place not just on bookshelves, but as a focal point in discussion groups about any of these topics.


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