An important addition to debates at the intersection of race and technology.

SEEN & UNSEEN

TECHNOLOGY, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND THE FIGHT FOR RACIAL JUSTICE

How the fight for racial justice has evolved in the era of “the rapid democratization of technology.”

Hill, the host of BET News and Black News Tonight, joins forces with historian Brewster, the founding director of the West Point Center for Oral History, in this intellectual examination of how racial injustices are viewed and enhanced through the use of social media. The authors look at our current culture of citizen surveillance and the “ubiquity of video evidence of racism,” scrutinizing a series of timely examples of racial confrontation captured on camera. In assessing the history of George Floyd, for example, Hill and Brewster weigh the downward trajectory of his life against a discussion on the nation’s history of slavery and the advent of Black separatism and social reform movements. They also ask why it took a live video portraying deadly violence to elicit the kind of sympathy and outrage that would shift our national conversation on race. The authors discuss abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth and films like The Birth of a Nation (1915) to further elucidate the plight of Black people throughout American history, including far too many examples of violence in our current era. They deliver a sharp assessment of the social media photojournalistic “influencer” culture, in which the history of anti-Black violence can become rewritten as “ideas get massaged and pulled like taffy” into “new applications or modifications that befit the times.” The result is a fascinating juxtaposition of history and contemporary affairs that offers a “more realistic, unfiltered picture of Black life.” Thanks to video technology, “long-held claims of racially motivated police and vigilante violence now have the evi­dence that they formerly lacked.” Throughout, the authors intelligently contrast momentous historical events with current atrocities, showing that while progress continues, there is much more work to be done to combat racial injustice.

An important addition to debates at the intersection of race and technology.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982-18039-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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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

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