I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir Book Review

There are two ways to look at life. The first is a series of potholes that we stepped in and learned from. The second is to always be the optimist. My view is a combination of them both. Life is a combination of good experiences and bad experiences. What matters is how we deal with the outcomes of those events.

Harvey Fierstein‘s new autobiography/memoir, I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir was published in March. Born in 1952 to a Jewish family in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst, he knew from an early age that he was a born performer. He also knew that he was not like other boys.

His life and career is nothing short of a roller coaster. As an LGBTQ activist, Fierstein has paved the way for this generation of queer young people to be out and proud of who they are. As a writer and actor, he has become well known and respected for his body of work: Independence Day, Newsies, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hairspray, etc.

Fierstein’s story is one of acceptance, change, and dealing with both the highs and lows that come with living a colorful life on your own terms.

I loved this book. In his trademark voice, Fierstein is funny, sarcastic, open, heartbreaking, and real. This is a man who has been to Hades and back and still finds joy in the little things. He is more than an icon in this book. He is a human being who has inspired us, made us laugh, made us cry, and most of all proved that we can be ourselves and thrive.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir is available wherever books are sold.

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The Best Places to Eat in New York City

It has been said that New York City is foodie heaven. Whatever you are craving, there is always a restaurant to satiate the appetite. When you’re coming from out of town, the obvious places to eat are the national chains that everyone knows. There is nothing wrong with that, but when you are in the greatest city in the world, why not try something new?

L&B Spumoni Gardens

Located in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Dumbo, this old-school Italian restaurant is a local favorite. Every dish is delicious and the portions are huge. I have rarely left this place without a doggie bag and a full stomach. If you’re not going to stay for a traditional entree, at least try the pizza. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Max Brenner

If you’re a chocoholic, you’re going to love this place. Walking into the Union Square restaurant is akin to walking into chocolate heaven. Whether you are there for a meal, dessert, or just a sweet treat, it is the perfect break from a busy day. There are also two other locations: a retail store in Times Square and a sister restaurant in Philadelphia.

Coney’s Cones

Summer is nothing without ice cream. Located on the Coney Island Boardwalk, Coney’s Cones sells the most delicious, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth gelato. Selling half a dozen flavors, the choices are as simple as a scoop in a cone or a cup or as complicated as a full-on dessert. This is one of my personal go-to places on the boardwalk.

Buddha Bodai

NYC is if nothing else, a city of immigrants. This often leads to a melding of dishes that otherwise, would not exist. Located in Chinatown, Buddha Bodai’s dishes are based on traditional Chinese food that is also kosher and vegetarian. I have never been in there when it is not packed or at least partially full. The food is mouthwatering, filling, and has a wide appeal.

Junior’s Cheesecake

Every culture and every city has certain fare that it is known for. One of the dishes that New York City is known for is cheesecake. There is one restaurant that makes the best cheesecake in the city, Junior’s Cheesecake. It has both retail and restaurant locations. All but one is in the city. It is perfect for a meal, a post-theater snack, or just because.

Readers, what do you think? Do you have any other recommendations to add to this list?

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Brooklyn Story Book Review

One of the quotes about writing that is floating around the internet is as follows:

Anyone who survives childhood has enough material to write for the rest of her life- Flannery O’Connor

In Bensonhurst, Brooklyn circa 1978, 15 year old Samantha Conti wants to be a writer. According to Ms. O’Connor, Samantha will have plenty of ideas to choose from.

Suzanne Corso’s 2011 novel, Brooklyn Story, is a coming of age tale told from Samantha’s point of view several years after the events in the book have taken place.

Her home life is dysfunctional with a capital D. Samantha’s father, a man of Sicilian origins, divorced his wife and abandoned his family years ago. Samantha has not seen her father since she was a little girl. Her mother, born into a Jewish family, converted to Catholicism at the start of her brief marriage. Samantha’s mother lives off welfare and has health issues stemming from substance abuse. Thankfully, Samantha does have positive adult role models in her life. Her grandmother lives with them and is helping to raise her granddaughter, she has also the family priest and her favorite teacher providing the emotional support that is not coming from her mother.

Samantha’s best friend, Janice who is three years older than her, introduces her to Tony. Tony is slightly older than Samantha. He is charming, attractive and attentive. He also has a temper and is a bit on the possessive side. Still, Samantha starts to see Tony. But the relationship will become questionable and Samantha will soon have to choose between her dreams of becoming a writer in Manhattan or staying in Brooklyn with Tony.

I initially picked up this book because I am very familiar with the part of Brooklyn that Ms. Corso uses as a backdrop. What I read was a young woman’s coming of age story that felt very real. The reader does not have to know Brooklyn or have lived during the late 1970’s to appreciate and understand Samantha’s journey.  While the thirty something woman that I am wanted to warn Samantha that Tony was bad news, the former teenager in me understood Samantha’s interest in him.

This book is nothing short of amazing and I highly recommend it.

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