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By Lavender July 16, 2008

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Breaking My Silence: Confessions of a Rat Pack Party Girl and Sex-Trade Survivor
Jane McCormick with Patti Wicklund
Rapfire Press
$19.95

Vadnais Heights great-grandmother Jane McCormick lets down her hair about her days as a “party girl,” and companion to the rich and famous—her induction into the Rat Pack Circle (Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra; crooner Dean Martin; actors/singers/comedians Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop). For those of us of that ’60’s era, it’s a backstage, women’s-eye view of Vegas and its high-rolling denizens (plus confirmation of what some always have felt about the original Oceans 11 cast). But glamour and glitz don’t come cheap or easy. Starting out in rough circumstances, McCormick used her beauty and personality to parlay herself into a life that she found in time had too many of the trappings of her childhood years. The book is, in the author’s words, “not meant to titillate, but to educate,” particularly regarding stricter prostitution legislation—for the men, not the prostitutes. Obtain this hard-hitting memoir—cowritten by McCormick’s partner, Patti Wicklund—at www.breakingmysilence.net.


Fool on the Hill: A Tess Camillo Mystery
Morgan Hunt
Alyson Books
$14.95

Palm Sunday weekend, Tess Camillo (lesbian sleuth extraordinaire) and Lana (Tess’s straight roommate-with-whom-she-once-had-a-fling) attend a concert featuring the renowned Gabrielle Leatheross, opened by aging bad-boy rocker (Lana’s heartthrob) Cody Crowne. Sunday morning, walking in nearby Torrey Pines State Preserve, Tess, looking out over the Pacific ocean, spots a cross bearing a crucified man suspended over the cliff face. As his song “Fool on the Hill” spins through her mind, Tess absorbs the grisly fact that the body, head crowned with thorns (and fingertips amputated), is Cody’s. In this adventure, Tess’s second excursion into private detectivedom, author Hunt rustles up more quirky characters, as well as bringing back a few first met in her debut novel, Sticky Fingers. Tess, a 40ish-something, amply endowed breast cancer survivor, has a keen wit and survivor’s irony, which plays well off Lana’s ditzy-but-no-fool sweetness. Better catch up on the series now—Hunt’s at work on Number Three, Blinded by the Light.


Frida Kahlo: Song of Myself
Salomon
Grimberg
Merrell
$22.95

Frida Kahlo: The Still Lifes
Salomon Grimberg
Merrell
$45

Frieda Kahlo’s very mystery is a lure, and in these volumes, Kahlo expert Salomon Grimberg offers two more lucrative fields of exploration within the enigmatic Kahlo canon. Song of Myself contains an intriguing interview with Kahlo (1907-1954) near the end of her life by her friend, psychologist Olga Campos, as well Campos’s memoir of the artist, along with a psychological assessment by Dr. James Bridger Harris. Grimberg’s discussion of this material, together with photographs and images by Kahlo, should be explored by anyone wanting to understand this unique woman. In The Still Lifes, Grimberg looks at all of Kahlo’s documented still life work. As both an art historian and psychiatrist, the author has a unique vantage point from which to offer perspectives. Still mining the rich trove that represents perhaps the most celebrated woman artist, he delves into Kahlo’s imagery and her symbolism, drawn from personal anguish, as well as pre-Hispanic Mexico and myriad other cultures.


We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People
Minnesota Historical Society Press
$24.95

On a first, surface glance, We Are at Home is simply a rich collection of more than 200 archival photographs of the Ojibwe people, from the late 1860s to the mid-20th Century. Historian White, however, sees more than just two-dimensional surfaces, and confronts us: “Who took these photos?”; “What was the [usually white] photographer’s purpose in a subject’s particular pose, clothing, a particular background?” It becomes clear through White’s explanation that photography, then as now, often was used to manipulate and prejudice the viewer. Two 1901 images by De Lancey Gill, for example, show the same three men, two standing behind the seated third. In one photo, they wear sober dark suits with shoes and caps; in the other, they are decked out in full regalia with beads and moccasins. (Was the native dress their own or the photographer’s conception?) An extremely valuable book, both for rarely seen images of the Ojibwe people, and for White’s thought-provoking text.

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