What could possibly motivate a sane, smart woman to participate in an extreme makeover for a reality television show? The answer is more complicated than it first appears. In Karyn Langhorne's remarkable and intelligent romance novel, Diary of an Ugly Duckling, Audra Marks has had just one too many bad days as a fat, black, and ugly prison guard when she sees an advertisement for the reality series Ugly Duckling. At odds with her exasperating mother, worried about her sister who is serving in Iraq, and longing to catch the eye of the one man who seems to really understand her, Audra impulsively makes a tape and is chosen for an extreme makeover. The emotional landscapes of beauty and racial identity are explored with a sharp and tender eye, challenging with both humor and quiet insight the ideas of what we find beautiful and why. Barbara Samuel is a four-time RITA winner whose most recent novel is Madame Mirabou's School of Love.

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