In Kiss My Tiara, Susan Jane Gilman offered sage instructions on how to rule the world as a smart-mouth goddess. In Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, she describes what it's like to grow up a woman in the contemporary world. In sharp, observant essays, she writes about the awkwardness of adolescence; the constant, dull pain of peer pressure; the serfdom of entry-level employment. The ring of truth; a dash of laughter.
Gilman's memoir of growing up on Manhattan's upper Upper West Side in the '70s starts slowly but gathers momentum. Readers who find themselves drifting during Gilman's reveries on lying during show-and-tell will find themselves pleasantly riveted by the time she's getting in touch with her roots as a reporter for the Jewish Week. Gilman, author of 2001's Kiss My Tiara, a women's self-help guide, makes common scenarios fresh with humor and wry social commentary; on the first day of school, she quickly learns "boys might be fighters, but girls could be terrorists." Gilman's ear for dialogue is dead-on. When her brother asks their dad why their Jewish family celebrates Christmas, she doesn't miss a beat: " `Because your grandmother's a Communist and your mother loves parties,' said my father. `Now eat your supper.' " These one-liners don't detract, however, from a serious and moving look at one family's efforts to keep itself intact through divorce and other life challenges. After her parents separate, Gilman, then in her mid-20s, fears she and her brother had spent their childhoods in happy oblivion while their parents were "spellbound with misery." Probably not: Gilman's recollections of moving bumpily toward adulthood are keenly observant. She's nicely made the leap from self-help to narrative nonfiction. Agent, Irene Skolnick. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Gilman has a gift for showing the humor in the ordinary. Her memoir takes readers from her childhood in the late 1960s and early '70s through adulthood and marriage. As the book opens, she is reminiscing about the summer of 1969 when she was four and her parents took her to a commune where one of their friends was filming a documentary. She got to personify "innocence" by dancing naked on the beach with other children. Other experiences include the challenges of being the only Jewish girl attending a private Presbyterian school, her mother's enthusiasm for transcendental meditation, and her own infatuation (and ultimate meeting) with Mick Jagger. Set against the backdrop of New York's Upper West Side, her descriptions of the insecurities that plagued her as an adolescent ring with truth. Gilman's narrative illustrates how the highs and lows that mark the teen years are remarkably similar among generations, and suggests that perhaps the gap isn't so wide after all. As she shares some of her adult experiences-career choices, the effects of her parents' divorce after she and her brother were grown, a work-related trip to the Polish concentration camps-her refreshing blend of humor and frankness does not trivialize the significance of her observations. Gilman's is not an extraordinary life, but she offers a view of American culture over the past 35 years that is compelling and highly readable.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A deliriously, levitatingly funny memoir. Humor columnist Gilman (Kiss My Tiara, not reviewed) may have been girlie and ambitious as a kid, but she always had her subversive, countercultural New York City family to keep those sentiments in perspective. "Heresy had become a family tradition" in the Gilman household, where urban paganism possessed a natural buoyancy. From her parents-once they had pummeled her out of the "fugue of perpetual arousal" that resulted from her discovery of sex-the author acquired a love of life's grotesque ironies, like learning that she had to pay to get in to Auschwitz. The thread of tough humor working its way through this memoir serves to backlight moments of exquisite realization (during puberty "your body starts changing subtly, like a shoreline") and startling, genuine epiphanies: The week she spent visiting concentration camps, the author writes, showed her "how spoiled and ill-equipped I was to cope with the viciousness of the world." She allows us to see how vulnerable and naive a drama queen she can be, but then gets back to the yin and yang of it all, noting that "devoutly religious people made me irritable . . . their rectitude and moral certainty just made me want to act out even more." Gilman is both pathetic and upbeat, sharp and capable of recognizing sharpness in others. At her first job, she spouts a little radical rhetoric and gets a zinger in return: "You know where workers of the world unite? The unemployment line." In what may be the most disarming scene here, this modern anti-bride will fall in love with a full-blown, pouffy white wedding dress. Yes, she will say, there is so much that is ridiculous and passionate and deluded in life-golook in any mirror. It's no great revelation that "all of us could use a good laugh these days," but this author delivers more than just one, and that makes her special. Author tour. Agent: Irene Skolnick/Irene Skolnick Agency