An excellent collection of essays about important subjects too often glossed over.



A Filipinx writer dismantles the harmful assumptions that underpin literature and the modern world.

Castillo’s idea of reading extends far beyond just books: “I’m talking about how to read our world now….How to dismantle the forms of interpretation we’ve inherited; how those ways of interpreting are everywhere and unseen.” In these essays, the author interrogates damaging assumptions that permeate our culture, especially pertaining to the stories and voices that receive the most attention; who those narratives serve; and who they often purposefully obscure. Castillo challenges the often espoused wisdom that we should read books by diverse authors to build empathy, noting that “we largely end up going to writers of color to learn the specific—and go to white writers to feel the universal.” She pushes back against simplified, incomplete thinking about matters of race and inequality. “The decolonial point here,” she writes, “is not to give voice to the voiceless, but to recognize the voices that have always been there—to recognize them, and to honor them.” While communities of color have always suffered the bulk of oppression, the stories about oppression that frequently garner the most attention are produced by White creators, for White audiences, featuring White people, a phenomenon Castillo deftly explores in “The Limits of White Fantasy.” Elsewhere, the author questions Joan Didion’s reputation as “the preeminent chronicler of Californian life” while Native people’s ties to California, their right to tell California’s stories, are ignored—or else they are reduced to footnotes in the stories told by people like Didion. Mere representation should not be the goal, Castillo argues, because the insistence on “positive representation” has never been for the benefit of the communities supposedly being represented. Not just thoroughly researched, these essays are also wildly engaging, with a biting and appropriately scathing tone and plenty of humor. Refreshingly, the humor never distracts from the urgency of the prose or incisiveness of the analysis.

An excellent collection of essays about important subjects too often glossed over.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-48963-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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