Kelly Koepke

Coming from anyone other than Julie Andrews, name-dropping would seem like bragging. Instead, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years simply offers the recollections of an extraordinary talent whose encounters with the theater and music glitterati of the 1940s, '50s and '60s shaped the formative years of her career. Andrews' writing is refreshing and authentic in its wide-eyed wonder, bolstered by her diaries and journals. Andrews performed with Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady and Richard Burton in Camelot on Broadway, married (and later divorced) legendary set and costume designer Tony Walton, hobnobbed with Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle, was mentored by the musical team of Lerner and Loewe, and became best friends withcomedian Carol Burnett. Walt Disney himself asked Andrews to be his Mary Poppins in what would turn into her Academy Award-winning debut film performance.

But the polished, refined Englishwoman whose accolades include Emmys, Golden Globes, a Kennedy Center Honor and three Tony Award nominations, started in 1935 as the oldest child of divorced parents, poor and poorly educated. When singing lessons from her stepfather opened a new world, Andrews took her big voice on the vaudeville circuit.

At times embracing her success, and at others overwhelmed by the pressure of providing for her family, Andrews honestly and often humorously recounts the seminal moments of her early career. While still in her teens, she sang for royals, debuted on the London stage and made her way to America's Great White Way. She lived in cold-water flats and luxurious apartments, found an island hideaway and struggled to balance the demands of fame and her own desires for security and home.

Always considered a class act by fellow performers, Andrews demonstrates in her memoir just why she's a grand dame of the entertainment world. She surely knows many dark secrets about countless theater, music and film legends, yet chooses to share only the best sides of them, and herself, in Home. Her generous nature shines through every word.

Mary Poppins is the first movie Kelly Koepke remembers seeing.

Coming from anyone other than Julie Andrews, name-dropping would seem like bragging. Instead, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years simply offers the recollections of an extraordinary talent whose encounters with the theater and music glitterati of the 1940s, '50s and '60s shaped the formative years of her career. Andrews' writing is refreshing and authentic […]

A good memoir is like a good loaf of bread. First, there's the crispy crust, making way for the airy, chewy center. All this good loaf of bread needs is a wedge of cheese, a piece of fruit and a glass of wine.

Trail of Crumbs, a memoir by Kim Sunee, is full of the crusty tidbits and airy, chewy morsels of her life. Abandoned as a toddler by her mother in South Korea, Sunee was adopted and raised by an American couple in New Orleans. There, her Asian features announced her otherness, and distanced her from family and friends. As a college student searching for a place she could truly call home, she traveled first to France and then to Sweden. In Stockholm at the tender age of 23, she met Olivier Baussan, founder of L'Occitane, a French skin care and bath company, who would eventually form olive oil chain Oliviers & Co. She moved to France with him, beginning a decade-long relationship. During the often stormy connection, Sunee explored and deepened her love for food and cooking, became a loving stepmother to Olivier's young daughter, and eventually discovered her need to create something of her own, for herself, by herself.

As a child of the Asian and American cultures, neither of one of which she felt comfortable in, Sunee also never felt comfortable in France, where she was identified first by others, and later by herself, as Olivier's woman. Her attempts to find her own essence, through running a poetry bookstore, then through psychoanalysis, are at times encouraged and hindered by Olivier, whose controlling nature ultimately overpowers the relationship.

Trail of Crumbs also includes several recipes for Provencal-style dishes like cream of chestnut soup, figs in red wine and creme caramel, as well as some from her Louisiana upbringing. They are the wine and cheese of the memoir, bright spots in an otherwise crusty, chewy account of Sunee's search for a place to call home.

Kelly Koepke is a freelance food and lifestyle writer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A good memoir is like a good loaf of bread. First, there's the crispy crust, making way for the airy, chewy center. All this good loaf of bread needs is a wedge of cheese, a piece of fruit and a glass of wine. Trail of Crumbs, a memoir by Kim Sunee, is full of the […]

In the late 1970s, millions of little girls cut their hair into a short, bouncy wedge, signed up for ice skating lessons and tried to emulate their idol's signature move, the Hamill camel. Dorothy Hamill's 1976 Olympic gold medal and subsequent international touring reinvigorated ice skating in the United States, and brought a level of athleticism to the sport that has become the norm. Despite being the darling of the ice skating world for decades, however, Hamill's life wasn't the picture-perfect image seen on television.

Hamill narrates A Skating Life, her new memoir, with clinical dispassion. The story of her formative years is one of nomadic travel from rink to rink and coach to coach in pursuit of better training; the only constant was her emotionally distant mother, who drove her to higher achievement. But her mother was absent for the pinnacle of Hamill's career, her gold medal performance at the Innsbruck games, something that puzzled and hurt Hamill for years.

Unprepared to live on her own after she turned professional, Hamill found herself lost amid the complexities of managing her superstar career. Public adoration of her remained high, however, and it was the act of skating, meeting fans and the freedom of the ice that provided stability, even through her turbulent relationship with first husband Dean Paul Martin (son of Dean Martin), who was killed in a plane crash, and her second marriage to a man who stole her money and habitually cheated on her. After the failure of her second marriage, Hamill reconciled with her estranged parents, who we learn expected continual monetary payback for their sacrifices when she was an amateur. This reconciliation, plus a recognition of the family's depressive medical history, brought focus back to Hamill's life. The bright spot for Hamill is her daughter Alexandra, who became the skater's reason for pushing forward through the trials.

Hamill is still active in the skating community, and her story will give inspiration to anyone striving toward a seemingly impossible dream or dealing with obstacles, whether physical, emotional or mental. Kelly Koepke was one of those little girls sporting Hamill's signature haircut.

In the late 1970s, millions of little girls cut their hair into a short, bouncy wedge, signed up for ice skating lessons and tried to emulate their idol's signature move, the Hamill camel. Dorothy Hamill's 1976 Olympic gold medal and subsequent international touring reinvigorated ice skating in the United States, and brought a level of […]

Here's a dilemma that more of us should face: Your wife gives birth to twins the same day you find out you've won a prestigious award. The prize is a year in Rome, a writing studio and apartment at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a bit of pocket change to keep you in diapers and gelato. Do you take the leap and drag your new babies across the globe, leaving your home and support system behind, for the chance to explore the Eternal City for a year?

Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector and About Grace, answered a resounding yes, fully embracing all that this lucky year would bring. The result is Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World, a touching, funny and sometimes awe-inspiring reflection on what it is to be an American in Italy, a non-Catholic during the vigil of a dying pope and the celebration of a newly chosen one, and a new father of boys who change so quickly it seems to be magic.

Doerr doesn't get much writing done on his planned novel, as one would imagine, surrounded as he is by the intellectual treasures of more than 2,000 years. Instead, he reads Pliny's histories of the world, explores churches and piazzas and neighborhood bakeries, marvels at centuries-old architecture and artistic riches, and the simple joys of the smell of his twins' heads. At one point he forgets he's speaking Italian to the grocer, only to be reminded of his alien status when faced with an alarming medical emergency.

Part love letter to Rome, part fish-out-of-water tale, and so much more than a travelogue, Four Seasons in Rome chronicles the passage of a year one that alternately flies by and drags on with style, wonder and wide-eyed amazement.

Kelly Koepke is a freelance writer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

Here's a dilemma that more of us should face: Your wife gives birth to twins the same day you find out you've won a prestigious award. The prize is a year in Rome, a writing studio and apartment at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a bit of pocket change to keep you […]

As the story of the pioneers of any land becomes legend, many details fall away. Who were the women behind the men and what happened to them? What was their contribution to the creation of a country? <b>Ines of My Soul</b>, the tale of Chile's conquest by the Spanish in the 1500s, is international best-selling author Isabel Allende's way of answering that question. As told in flashback by a courageous Spanish seamstress who becomes the mother of the land, <b>Ines of My Soul</b> dramatically recreates the adventure, romance and achievement of an indomitable woman in the untamed wilderness of South America.

When Ines Surez's good-for-nothing husband disappears in the New World, she sets out to find him, freeing herself from the repressive environment of Spain. Ines' adventures begin during the long sea journey to the Americas. Her keen mind and beauty soon capture the attention of Pedro de Valdivia, field marshal to the explorer Francisco Pizarro, governor of Peru. Together, Ines and Pedro lead the expedition destined to colonize the wild and fertile land of Chile. Their love affair ultimately raises Ines to the heights of society, where she proves her nobility by defending the nascent town of Santiago from the attacks of the fierce natives.

In this, her ninth novel, Allende's love of her native lands she was born in Peru and raised in Chile before immigrating to the United States shines through. Ines, Pedro and the indigenous Chileans come alive, clashing with swords and clubs, facing starvation, betrayal and, finally, triumph. Allende weaves meticulously researched historic detail about the real-life Ines with brilliant imagination in this riveting tale, demonstrating again a singular talent for storytelling that grows stronger with each new work. <i>Kelly Koepke writes from Albuquerque, New Mexico.</i>

As the story of the pioneers of any land becomes legend, many details fall away. Who were the women behind the men and what happened to them? What was their contribution to the creation of a country? <b>Ines of My Soul</b>, the tale of Chile's conquest by the Spanish in the 1500s, is international best-selling […]

Malika Oufkir's first book, Stolen Lives, told the horrific story of her 20-year imprisonment in Morocco. The eldest of six children of the closest aide and friend of King Hassan II, Oufkir spent most of her childhood and adolescence in the seclusion of the court harem, surrounded by luxury. In 1972, when she was 18, her father was executed after a failed assassination attempt. Oufkir, her five younger siblings and her mother were imprisoned in a desert penal colony for 15 years, the last 10 in solitary cells. Recaptured five days after an audacious escape, Oufkir and the others were officially free, but unable to leave their home, carry on friendships or lead ordinary lives. In 1996, the family finally fled Morocco to begin anew.

Freedom: The Story of My Second Life, Oufkir's follow-up memoir, details her struggle to create a normal life outside her homeland. First in France, then the United States, Oufkir confronts the abundance of food available in supermarkets, shocking after all those years of prison deprivation and hoarding even the smallest crumb. Equally frightening to her is how technology makes the world a small place; Oufkir learns how to live in a world where her appearance on Oprah makes her an international celebrity.

Oufkir's story is filled with hope. Living for the first time as an adult, she grabs our attention with her observations and humor, reminding us of the basic freedoms we take for granted: friendship, love and the ability to build the lives we dream about. Her most poignant passages detail her quest to find love, and eventually, a child. My first man, the one who was to make a real' woman out of me, came into my life shortly after I was freed from prison. I was a 43-year-old virgin, she writes. I have to relearn everything about being a woman, from the beginning. . . . I want to be a woman, at long last. Kelly Koepke is a freelance writer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Malika Oufkir's first book, Stolen Lives, told the horrific story of her 20-year imprisonment in Morocco. The eldest of six children of the closest aide and friend of King Hassan II, Oufkir spent most of her childhood and adolescence in the seclusion of the court harem, surrounded by luxury. In 1972, when she was 18, […]

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