Inspired by young climate strikers, Jane Fonda leveraged her celebrity wattage to protest inaction on climate change in Washington, D.C., where she was arrested five times. Photo: Kypros/Getty Images
> First Person
Dig Deep Into Extraordinary Lives With These Hot Memoirs
Read on for a glimpse into the lives of Fonda, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and more / BY Athena McKenzie
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>JANE FONDA’S CRI DE COEUR
Born into Hollywood royalty, Jane Fonda’s life has been famously shaped by activism, from the Black Panthers fight against police brutality in the ’70s to anti-Vietnam War protests to recent calls to defund the police in the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25. Last year, the 82-year-old had “an epiphany about the state of our planet,” inspired by young climate strikers like Greta Thunberg. In October 2019, Fonda moved to Washington, D.C., to lobby against U.S. inaction on climate change. “This is the last possible moment in history when changing course can mean saving lives and species on an unimaginable scale,” she writes. “It’s too late for moderation.” No stranger to jail cells, she was arrested five times in four months as she protested week after week on Capitol Hill for her Fire Drill Fridays. Her first arrest, on trumped-up drug charges in 1970, resulted in a mug shot seen around the world. Fifty years later, Fonda still has one fist in the air.
>THAT’S GOLD, JERRY!
With his first comedy special in 23 years on Netflix this spring and Is This Anything?, his first book in 25, Jerry Seinfeld is back, baby. Ever since he appeared at the New York nightclub Catch a Rising Star as a 21-year-old college student, Seinfeld has kept his best comedy bits – which he wrote down on yellow legal pads – in a file.“I have everything I thought was worth saving from 45 years of hacking away at this for all I was worth,” he says. Organized by decade, the book is a hilarious and insightful overview of a comic who has always been at the top of the game, from Seinfeld to Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The book reminds us that Seinfeld’s one-liners from a show about nothing are so legendary, they’ve crept into the pop-culture vernacular, from double dipping to Festivus to yada yada yada. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Toronto writer Julia Zarankin was auditioning hobbies when she landed on bird watching. The last thing she expected was to join the flock, but she explains how, at a crossroads in her academic career and newly divorced, she found solace – and ultimately love – through her new obsession. Her first trip out, she didn’t even have binoculars; in July 2020, she reviewed field glasses for Cottage Life magazine. Zarankin traces her journey from her birthplace in the former Soviet Union – her parents, both concert pianists, are Russian Jews – to Canada, and finds a parallel between her flight path and those of birds. Ultimately, she decides she is a migratory species, too: she was raised in Vancouver and Toronto, lived in Paris and worked as a professor of Russian literature in the U.S. From personal crisis to finding meaning in mid-life, Zarankin’s current aspirations say it all: “To sport the hairdo of a cedar waxwing, acquire the wardrobe of a Northern flicker and develop the confidence of a Ross’s goose."
If you were hoping for a cookbook, this is not it. If, however, you want a heartfelt memoir that explores the U.S. chef’s winding road to success, his battle with mental illness and passion for bringing an Asian dining ethos to the West, consider this your appetizer, main course and dessert.
Chang, the restaurateur behind the Momofuku empire and star of Netflix’s Ugly Delicious, starts his book off with a disclaimer: “Frankly, I just don’t understand my appeal.” But for anyone who watched him pal around Vancouver with Seth Rogen on Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, his charm – and storytelling ability – are evident.
After growing up in a deeply religious, conservative Korean-American family in Virginia, Chang studied religion in college and dabbled in both cooking and finance. He moved to Japan to teach English – where he had his first manic episode – and, upon his return, discovered he “didn’t hate” cooking. He opened his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, in New York’s East Village in 2004, in part to keep suicidal thoughts at bay. When the restaurant started making money, he paid for more therapy.
Momofuku means lucky peach in Japanese, but Chang has said it was a nod to the man who invented instant ramen, Momofuku Ando.
Chang takes the reader along on his journey to culinary superstardom with stories about his legendary outbursts of anger in the kitchen and his dark days of depression. Long before there was a ramen joint on every corner, Chang’s authentic version – along with his pork buns and crispy chicken – made his restaurants a destination for foodies and earned him five James Beard awards for his cooking. His influence on American restaurant cuisine is undeniable. As he writes, “Food across the country has become porkier, spicier, brighter, better.”