A bold, incisive book on heavy topics with a call to action for a more equitable future that doesn’t center White men.

MEDIOCRE

THE DANGEROUS LEGACY OF WHITE MALE AMERICA

The author of So You Want To Talk About Race takes a close look at the perils and constraints of White male identity.

In the U.S., a country built on slavery and exploitation, millions of Americans insist that our political, economic, legal, and educational systems are meritocracies when they clearly aren’t. While everyone else has to excel in order to get by, writes Oluo, we reward mediocre White men’s bad behavior: “We have, as a society, somehow convinced ourselves that we should be led by incompetent assholes.” White male mediocrity sustains “a violent, sexist, racist status quo” and robs others of greatness and keeps them powerless and poor. When average White men fail to reap what they believe is their natural birthright, they turn their rage not on elite White men but rather on the women and people of color they blame for their loss of opportunity. Not surprisingly, White men are currently the “biggest domestic terror threats in this country.” As the author clearly shows, “today’s titans of white male mediocrity” are part of a long line of “arrogant, entitled, irresponsible, willfully ignorant bullies” in powerful positions. Understanding this history, Oluo believes, is a prerequisite for survival and for enacting the systemic change that is required to alter the situation. She traces mediocre White men across centuries to the present, including the bloody U.S. westward expansion and cowboy mythology that fueled Native American genocide; male feminists; the two-facedness of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and the often vicious Bernie Bros; the war on higher education; racism in the NFL; and mediocre White men in the workplace. A gifted storyteller and thorough researcher, Oluo analyzes these histories, many of them lesser known, with solid scholarship and useful pop-culture references.

A bold, incisive book on heavy topics with a call to action for a more equitable future that doesn’t center White men.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-58005-951-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more