PaperBackSwap Blog

Posts Tagged ‘memoirs’

Nonfiction Review – Grateful American

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service by Gary Sinise

Review by Mirah W (mwelday)



I’m going to be honest with you from the start, PBSers. I am a huge Gary Sinise fan and I have been for years. I am unapologetic in my promotion of the Gary Sinise Foundation and for Gary’s professional endeavors. As an active duty Navy spouse, I have immense respect and admiration for Gary and his charitable works to support military service members and first responders. So when I learned of his book last September, I immediately pre-ordered it. In December, I had the opportunity to join Gary’s launch team for his book and I was so very excited to do my part to support this new endeavor. I did receive an advance reader copy; however, all of my opinions about Grateful American and this review are my own opinion and my own words.  Now, of course, with that being said, my opinion may not be totally unbiased since I am such a fan.

In my reading of the book, I think there were two defining moments that catapulted Gary into what has become a true life of service. First, was his portrayal of Lt Dan Taylor in the movie Forrest Gump. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 1994, you’ve heard of Forrest Gump (“Run, Forrest, Run!”). Veterans responded positively to Gary’s portrayal and embraced him with respect as one of their own. Second, was the attack on our nation on Sept 11, 2001. That event propelled Gary to reach out to the USO and volunteer.  He went on his first USO tour in 2003 and his life was then on a course that would eventually lead to hundreds of concerts with the Lt Dan Band and numerous other endeavors to raise millions of dollars for initiatives to support veterans, first responders and their families.  And the incredible thing is that raising millions of dollars is just tip of a magnificent iceberg of service.

I know I mentioned earlier in this post that I was an unapologetic fan of Gary’s and this book has only increased my deep respect for him. I know it may sound incredibly cheesy, but I feel a sort of kinship with Gary. He went on his first USO tour in 2003 and that is the year our family became a Navy family. Our families were both impacted by Sept 11, 2001 in a way that would change the trajectory of our lives. We each chose lives of service after that tragedy, just in different ways and both being equally important.

Even though I am a fan, I won’t blow smoke about the level of quality of this book. Please, listen to me…this is a great book. If you think you know about Gary, I promise there will be new revelations in this book (one of my favorite insider bits was about his character on the TV show CSI:NY). Gary knows how to tell a story. He grabs your attention with the first few chapters about his early life, how he finds acting and the founding of The Steppenwolf Theater. He brings you further into his life by telling the reader honestly about the trials he experiences professionally and personally. His heart is on the pages of this book and you can just tell it is sincere. Gary injects humor and humility into his story and there is something for everyone in the book. There is something for the wayward teenager, the hopeless romantic, the spiritual, the volunteer, the service member, the first responder, the family of a veteran or first responders, the movie/television buff, the military historian…I could go on and on.  The only slightly less-than-positive thing I could say about this book is that the last few chapters read as a list various projects and events; but this really can’t be helped given the magnitude of Gary’s endeavors and desire to cover everything.  And even with these ‘lists’ there are personal stories of those involved that continues to give the book heart.

The thing I probably like most about Grateful American is it is of singular purpose. Gary Sinise conveys his message clearly on every page. And what message is that? It is quite simple, Gary Sinise is a grateful American and he has gratitude and respect for those that defend his country and make his life of freedom possible. I can’t recommend this book heartily enough…5 stars!




Nonfiction Review – Troublemaker

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Troublemaker by Leah Remini

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

Several months ago Leah Remini made the rounds on the talk show circuit to promote her book Troublemaker.  I was intrigued by her story of leaving her church after so many years and decided to read the book.

Remini is open and forthright in this telling of her life and, sometimes sordid, history with Scientology.  Knowing nothing other than some vocal celebrities practice Scientology and that it is based on L. Ron Hubbard’s writings, I was interested in learning more.

Remini doesn’t point the finger at Scientology and blame it for all of her troubles.  She openly admits she sometimes made the wrong choices and she could have done things differently.  Remini also acknowledges that Scientology and many of its practices helped shape her into being a better person; trying her best to help others and be a good member of her church.  However, eventually Remini realized there was something missing from her faith and she was disturbed by some of her interactions with others in the church.

Delivered with humor, wit, and honesty, I really enjoyed Remini’s book.  It was eye-opening and I found it so intriguing to be able to learn more about the inner workings and practices of Scientology and how she came to be a part of the organization.  For the reader who wants the scoop on celebrity inside information, there is some of that to whet their appetite but, fortunately for the rest of us, that is not the primary focus in the book.