Category: Memoir

Voice Arts Awards Winner 2019

You have to scroll waaay down through all of the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences 2019 winners (where only a small fraction of the narrators are credited) to Audiobook Narration – Biography, Best Voiceover category winner. There you’ll find a book I co-edited and for which I wrote and narrated an essay. Nevertheless We Persisted #MeToo was a courageous labor of love for all of us and I was proud to be a part of yet another important production from Blunderwoman Productions even before this award. If you choose to purchase the book, know that “half of the proceeds are being donated to https://www.rainn.org , a national sexual violence prevention and support resource. The other half of proceeds will be used to produce future BWP anthologies, allowing more writers to share their stories.” (from original Go Fund Me campaign)

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NOMADLAND by Jessica Bruder

Available now from Highbridge Audio. From the Publisher: “From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they’re hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or “workampers.” Building on her groundbreaking Harper’s cover story, “The End of Retirement,” which brought attention to these formerly settled members of the middle class, Jessica Bruder follows one such RVer, Linda, between physically taxing seasonal jobs and reunions of her new van-dweller family, or “vanily.” Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of both the economy’s dark underbelly and the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and hope of these hardworking, quintessential Americans―many of them single women―who have traded rootedness for the dream of a better life.” From the Library Journal Starred Review: “Karen White’s clearly enunciated, steady-paced narration nicely relates this densely packed information that is essential for all public libraries, especially those in communities experiencing this phenomenon.” From the review at Every Day I Write the Book blog: “I listened to Nomadland on audio. It was narrated by my friend Karen White, who gave it just the gravity it needed. Her precise delivery, verging on alarmed, conveyed the substance and urgency of the topic, yet she handled the book’s wry and humorous moments just as well.” My recording experience: This is one of those books that will stick with you, despite the barrage of news that fills the airwaves and interwebs daily. At least it did for me. Bruder’s writing based on immersive reporting experience opened my eyes to a new reality for so many Americans. A reality that’s both inspiring and scarily dystopian. For an example of what I’m talking about, check out this video I found when I was trying to find out the correct pronunciation of “Kiva”: Or, if you want the other side of the coin, there are articles at Nature Sport Central and CheapRVLiving.com where you can find out how to make this lifestyle your own. Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Johanna is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering!  I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter. Oftentimes, you can also enter there!

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HIDDEN LIVES OF OWLS by Leigh Calvez plus Giveaway

Available now from Tantor Audio. From the Publisher: In this New York Times bestseller, a naturalist probes the forest to comprehend the secret lives of owls. Leigh Calvez takes listeners on an adventure into the world of owls: owl-watching, avian science, and the deep forest—often in the dead of night. These birds are a bit mysterious, and that’s part of what makes them so fascinating. Calvez makes the science entertaining and accessible while exploring the questions about the human-animal connection, owl obsession, habitat, owl calls, social behavior, and mythology. My recording experience: Leigh Calvez does a beautiful job of bringing the reader along on her experience of learning all about the owls she encounters. Recording this book, so many of my own owl-related memories bubbled up: dissecting owl pellets at my kids’ elementary school Science Night, the very scary owl in Beatrix Potter’s book The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, the owl that mysteriously lived on our very urban street in Sherman Oaks, and best of all, the board book Owl Babies that my babies loved as much as I loved reading it to them. I had a great time listening to the different owl calls on the Cornell ornithology site, and doing my best to voice them, too! There is something magical about owls, and Calvez does a great job of exploring what it is that draws us to them as well as raising awareness about their threatened existence. A great gift for anyone who is interested in the environment, birds or naturalist writing. Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Sally is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering!  I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter. Oftentimes, you can also enter there! (If you’d like to buy a copy, using this link, I’ll receive a small percentage from Amazon through their Associates program. Narrators don’t earn royalties, so this is a way I can be compensated for marketing the book.)  

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UNFINISHED BUSINESS by Anne-Marie Slaughter

Available now from Penguin Random House Audio. From the Publisher: “NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND NPR • “An eye-opening call to action from someone who rethought the whole notion of ‘having it all,’ Unfinished Business could change how many of us approach our most important business: living.”—People When Anne-Marie Slaughter accepted her dream job as the first female director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department in 2009, she was confident she could juggle the demands of her position in Washington, D.C., with the responsibilities of her family life in suburban New Jersey. Her husband and two young sons encouraged her to pursue the job; she had a tremendously supportive boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and she had been moving up on a high-profile career track since law school. But then life intervened. Parenting needs caused her to make a decision to leave the State Department and return to an academic career that gave her more time for her family. The reactions to her choice to leave Washington because of her kids led her to question the feminist narrative she grew up with. Her subsequent article for The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” created a firestorm, sparked intense national debate, and became one of the most-read pieces in the magazine’s history. Since that time, Anne-Marie Slaughter has pushed forward, breaking free of her long-standing assumptions about work, life, and family. Though many solutions have been proposed for how women can continue to break the glass ceiling or rise above the “motherhood penalty,” women at the top and the bottom of the income scale are further and further apart. Now, in her refreshing and forthright voice, Anne-Marie Slaughter returns with her vision for what true equality between men and women really means, and how we can get there. She uncovers the missing piece of the puzzle, presenting a new focus that can reunite the women’s movement and provide a common banner under which both men and women can advance and thrive. With moving personal stories, individual action plans, and a broad outline for change, Anne-Marie Slaughter reveals a future in which all of us can finally finish the business of equality for women and men, work and family.” From the review in AudioFile Magazine: “Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor at Princeton University and former director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department, looks at work, family, and the myth of having it all. The introduction and the coda are both read by the author and provide an authentic voice for the discussion that follows, a combination of Slaughter’s own experiences and her expertise in looking at policy issues to . . .

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UNREQUITED: Women and Romantic Obsession by Lisa A. Phillips plus GIVEAWAY

Available now from Tantor Audio. From the Publisher: “The summer Lisa A. Phillips turned thirty, she fell in love with someone who didn’t return her feelings. She soon became obsessed. She followed him around, called him compulsively, and talked about him endlessly. One desperate morning, after she snuck into his apartment building, he picked up a baseball bat to protect himself and began to dial 911. Her unrequited love had changed her from a sane, conscientious college teacher and radio reporter into someone she barely recognized—someone who was taking her yearning much too far. In Unrequited, Phillips explores the tremendous force of obsessive love in women’s lives. Interweaving her own story with frank interviews and in-depth research in science, psychology, cultural history, and literature, Phillips describes how romantic obsession takes root, grows, and strongly influences our thoughts and behaviors. As she illuminates this mysterious psychological experience, placing it in a rich and nuanced context, Phillips offers compelling insights to help any woman who has experienced unrequited obsessive love and been mystified and troubled by its grip.” My recording experience: I honestly had no idea what to expect when I set out to read this book, and I have to say that I think it’s one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, and it totally works.  Phillips has skillfully woven together her own life experience with that of other women who’ve done surprising things while in the throes of unrequited love, put them in perspective using the sciences and history and myth to create a very readable (and hopefully listen-able!) final product.  It had me thinking about some of the crazy things I’ve done in the name of love (endless letters to that director from London, making my friends ride by the house of that boy I was obsessed with in 8th grade, etc.).  The most important thing Phillips does is challenge us to find the deeper drive behind the obsession – what in ourselves are we trying to create, find or heal, that we have projected onto this man? Fascinating stuff! Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Joan is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering! I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter.

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MOTHERHOOD SMOTHERHOOD by JJ Keith

Fighting Back Against the Lactivists, Mompetitions, Germophobes, and So-Called Experts Who Are Driving Us Crazy Available now from Audible. com  From the Publisher: “What’s the first thing a woman does when she thinks she might be pregnant? She Googles. And it goes downhill from there. While the internet is full of calming and cheerily supportive articles, it’s also littered with hyper-judgmental message boards and heaps of contradictory and scolding information.Motherhood Smotherhood takes parents through the trenches of new parenting, warning listeners of the pleasures and perils of mommy blogs, new parent groups, self-described “lactivists”, sleep fascists, incessant trend pieces on working versus non-working mothers, and the place where free time and self-esteem goes to die: Pinterest (back away from the hand-made flower headbands for baby!). JJ Keith interweaves discussions of what “it takes a village” really means (hint: a lot of unwanted advice from elderly strangers who may have grown up in actual villages) and a take-down of the rising “make your own baby food” movement (just mush a banana with a fork!) with laugh-out-loud observations about the many mistakes she made as a frantic new mother with too much access to high speed internet and a lot of questions. Keith cuts to the truth – whether it’s about “perfect” births, parenting gurus, the growing tide of vaccine rejecters, the joy of blanketing Facebook with baby pics, or germophobia – to move conversations about parenting away from experts espousing blanket truths to amateurs relishing in what a big, messy pile of delight and trauma having a baby is.” My recording experience: Oh, this book made me laugh.  And wish that it had been around when I was pregnant/parenting babies and toddlers.  And think of a list of people that I wanted to give it to.  Granted, Keith’s sense of humor is on the irreverent side, and she’s not shy with her use of, shall we say, colorful language.  So it’s not for every brand of new mom.  But if you’re like me, and your parenting experience was full of both anxiety and hilarity, then you’d be on board.  The following quote describing one such moment kind of summed up Keith’s writing style to me: “That right there is a vomit sundae.”  Enjoy. Listen to a sample here:

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THE PRICE OF SILENCE by Liza Long plus GIVEAWAY

Available now from Blackstone Audio at Downpour.com From the Publisher: “Liza Long is the mother of a child with an undiagnosed mental disorder. When she heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, her first thought was, “What if my son does that someday?” She wrote an emotional response to the tragedy, which the Boise State University online journal posted as “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” The post went viral, receiving 1.2 million Facebook likes, nearly 17,000 tweets, and 30,000 emails. Now, in The Price of Silence she takes a devastating look at how we address mental illness, especially in children, who are funneled through a system of education, mental health care, and juvenile detention that leads far too often to prison. In the end she asks one central question: If there’s a poster child for cancer, why can’t there be one for mental illness? The answer: the stigma. Liza Long is speaking in a way that we cannot help but hear, and she won’t stop until something changes.” My recording experience: This is a powerful book and a must read for all parents, really for all of us, whether or not we have someone in our lives who suffers from mental illness or a developmental disability.  Though from Long‘s research, it seems as though it’d be unlikely that any of us live lives untouched by either.  I hope that this is the beginning of a conversation in this country that leads to positive change.  As with many of our current social ills, leaving things as they are is likely to spell disaster. Listen to a sample here: THE GIVEAWAY: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Miss Susie is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering! I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter.  

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MAKE ME A MOTHER by Susanne Antonetta (with author interview!)

Available now from Audible.com. From the Publisher: “A woman unexpectedly finds her best self through a sleepy bundle handed over at the airport in this heartfelt and surprising memoir. In Make Me a Mother, acclaimed memoirist Susanne Antonetta adopts an infant from Seoul, South Korea. After meeting their six-month-old son, Jin, at the airport – an incident made memorable when Susanne, so eager to meet her son, is chased down by security – Susanne and her husband learn lessons common to all parents, such as the lack of sleep and the worry and joy of loving a child. They also learn lessons particular to their own family: not just how another being can take over your life but how to let an entire culture in, how to discuss birth parents who gave up a child, and the tricky steps required to navigate race in America. In the end, her relationship with her son teaches Susanne to understand her own troubled childhood and to forgive and care for her own aging parents. Susanne comes to realize how, time and time again, all families have to learn to adopt one another.” My recording experience: I love narrating memoir.  Oftentimes, publishers choose to have the author narrate their own work, somewhat naturally I guess, as one gets the story from the horse’s mouth, as it were.  But the other side of the coin is that my training as an actor allows me to express an author’s words and thought/feelings more fully and engage the listener, taking them on a well-crafted journey.  Luckily, author Susanne Antonetta had the same idea, so I got to read her story for her.  We had a great conversation and it turned into the following interview. The interview: KW: So, I have to ask first: Suzanne Paola/ Susanne Antonetta – why the alter ego? SA: You know, when I lived in Atlanta and worked as a freelance writer, I had something like five pseudonyms! I get asked this question a lot and I’m not sure I can fully explain it. Maybe it works for me as a person who is bipolar, who is aware of what you could call almost the edges of my different selves. Antonetta is a family name, the name of a kind of a “lost” woman in my father’s family. I tell her story in Body Toxic. And my legal name was shortened by my father—it was originally Pietropaolo—so somehow it has never felt quite as mine as other people seem to feel their family names to be. All I know is that each of my identities has her own way of approaching writing—sometimes I call Susanne Antonetta my “evil twin.” She’s the honest one! KW: . . .

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BOOTSTRAPPER by Mardi Jo Link

Available now from Random House Audio. From the Publisher: It’s the summer of 2005, and Mardi Link’s dream of living the simple life has unraveled. She and her husband have just called it quits, leaving her with serious cash-flow problems and a looming divorce. More broke than ever, Link makes a seemingly impossible resolution: to hang on to her century-old farmhouse in northern Michigan and continue to raise her three boys on well water and wood chopping and dirt. Armed with an unfailing sense of humor and her three sons, Link confronts blizzards and angry foxes, learns about Zen divorce and the best way to butcher a hog, dominates a zucchini-growing contest, wrangles rampaging poultry, and withstands every blow to her pride in order to preserve the life she longs for. From the AudioFile Magazine review: “White sounds by turns tough and tender, discouraged but never despairing. She captures Link’s strength and sense of humor in the face of the challenges she must overcome in the wake of her divorce.” From the Bermudaonion’s Weblog review: “Karen White does a fantastic job narrating the audio version of Bootstrapper – she was Link in my mind as I listened to this 8 and a half hour audio book.  I recommend this book to those who enjoy memoirs.” My recording experience: Y’all know I am a fan of the “farmoir” (having come so very close to buying a goat farm myself before chickening out) and this one did not disappoint – Mardo Jo Link manages to bring to this burgeoning genre a generous dose of humor as well as pathos (folks, do NOT try this at home unless you know what you are doing!).  Her voice is delightfully unique (she manages to combine poetic imagery with down-home swearing) but somehow when I sat down to record I felt like her voice fit mine like a second skin.  (And with that bag of mixed metaphors, you see why I do not try the writing game at home, either.)  This book was a blast to record, especially since I got to work with fabulous director Fred Sanders for the first time, who made the process even easier.  A little bittersweet, since it was the last project I recorded at Random House West before our move back east, but if it was to be the last, I’m glad it was such a rewarding one. Listen to a sample here:

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A DOG WALKS INTO A NURSING HOME by Sue Halpern

Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher. Available May 16 from Tantor Audio. From the Publisher: At loose ends with her daughter leaving home and her husband on the road, Sue Halpern decided to give herself and Pransky, her under-occupied Labradoodle, a new leash—er, lease—on life by getting the two of them certified as a therapy dog team. Smart, spirited, and instinctively compassionate, Pransky turned out to be not only a terrific therapist but an unerring moral compass. In the unlikely sounding arena of a public nursing home, she led her teammate into a series of encounters with the residents that revealed depths of warmth, humor, and insight Halpern hadn’t expected. And little by little, their adventures expanded and illuminated Halpern’s sense of what virtue is and does—how acts of kindness transform the giver as well as the given-to. Funny, moving, and profound, A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home is the story of how one faithful, charitable, loving, and sometimes prudent mutt—showing great hope, fortitude, and restraint along the way (the occasional begged or stolen treat notwithstanding)—taught a well-meaning woman the true nature and pleasures of the good life. From the AudioFile Magazine review: “…Karen White’s authentic interpretation of this moving book elevates Halpern’s humane writing. Sounding perfectly in tune with the author’s sensibilities and never losing track of the broader themes, she glides through the poetic, be-there-now passages so comfortably that you can almost see the residents’ minimalist clothing and smell the cafeteria food down the hall. White also understands the role of the dog in the story: to help Halpern deliver her philosophical message without sounding too didactic.” My recording experience: If you know me at all as a narrator (and as a person) you know I’m a sucker for a good animal story.  But this book was not your usual “dogoir” (dog-memoir – coined by author Julie Klam).  Pransky is a rescue, she’s adorable (see video of her saying “I Love You” which my daughter and dog have viewed at least 100 times), but this book is also about the big fears we face as humans (probably not as dogs), the moral challenges we face even in the everyday, and the questions that facing the end of life can bring up.  All with a sense of humor and playfulness.  I love books that make me think about life in a new way, and this book was one of those on top of being a great dog and owner story.  Love it. p.s.  Another great Tantor audiobook cover design! Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Thanks to all who entered.  I do giveaways regularly, so keep your eyes peeled! Related articles Ask Sue . . .

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