A useful anti-racist memoir about how anti-racism can make the world safer for all children.

HOW TO RAISE AN ANTIRACIST

The National Book Award–winning author uses his own life to illustrate the need for anti-racist policy and practices in American schools and homes.

Kendi, professor of humanities at Boston University and one of our foremost scholars on race in America, begins with his wife’s experience as a Black doctor with a medical degree from Yale whose prenatal concerns were ignored by multiple health care workers—an unfortunately common problem that Black women often face in pregnancy and beyond. The author continues by explaining how his daughter’s preschool years motivated him to think through “childproofing” the “racial environment” of his home. He then transitions to his own childhood experiences transferring among eight different schools in order to escape various types of racism, beginning with his kindergarten in Queens, where his teacher labeled him as a behavioral problem despite the fact that he wasn’t acting any differently than his White peers. In a chapter about his brother, Kendi explains the connections between ableism and racism, and he ends with a chapter summarizing the current debates about anti-racist education in school and presenting a clear, impassioned case for why all children benefit from anti-racist instruction. “The most critical part of raising a child is not what we do with our child,” he writes. “It’s what we do with our society. We must keep our individual children safe in this racist soci­ety, while building an antiracist society that can protect all our children.” Rather than illustrating specific parenting techniques, the author uses personal stories to argue for sweeping changes to health care and education. The author’s vulnerability about his own parenting mistakes and schooling mishaps clarifies racist structures with empathy, clarity, and hope for change. While Kendi’s overuse of rhetorical questions and tendency to self-flagellate sometimes feel grating, the book is an excellent introduction to how racism impacts children across the life span.

A useful anti-racist memoir about how anti-racism can make the world safer for all children.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-24253-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

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

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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