An often nuanced analysis of the prevalence of American racism.

DIGGING UP THE SEEDS OF WHITE SUPREMACY

An independent scholar and consultant explores the roots of White supremacy in the United States.

As a White woman with “a relatively comfortable life,” Fierro notes that this survey of racist ideology “wasn’t an easy book to write” and that she doesn’t “expect it to be an easy read” for other middle-class White people. Taking the advice of Black activists since the 1960s, she focuses on challenging White people’s beliefs, and her intended audience is specifically progressive young people who are at a loss for how to address systemic racism. The bulk of the book provides a historical overview of the roots of White supremacy, covering major events from 1492 through 2020, from Pope Alexander VI’s institutionalization of the “Doctrine of Discovery” and Europe’s embrace of race-based slavery to Jim Crow and the racist persecution of the war on drugs. The figures most often associated with American racism certainly make appearances, including enslavers, the Ku Klux Klan, and Southern sheriffs. However, the book also emphasizes the ways in which some White activists have historically perpetuated White supremacy. Helen Parrish, a White woman from Philadelphia whose activism centered on housing reform, for instance, has traditionally been portrayed as a hero of the nascent progressive movement in the late 19th century. Yet, in Fierro’s convincing analysis, Parrish’s career is defined by her “condescending saviorism,” as seen in her private diaries, which are rife with examples of her belief in her superiority to non-White tenants and her judgmental intrusion into their lives. The book’s retellings of the stories of such icons are the book’s strong suit, as is Fierro’s emphasis on the historic phenomenon of “White Women Myopia,” demonstrating how “systems of ‘help’ established by white women didn’t produce equality for people of color.”

Fierro, who has a doctorate in African American studies from Temple University, has a firm command of this history, and she supports her work with more than 500 citations. Although academic historians won’t find much that’s new in the book’s analysis, which does not fully and methodologically engage with archival research, it more than accomplishes the author’s goal of providing an accessible history for general readers. This effort toward engagement is accompanied by a down-to-earth writing style and an ample assortment of full-color original art by Fierro and illustrator Sgueglia as well as diagrams, charts, and other visual aids. The book will likely show many White readers the ways in which America’s racist history resonates in their present-day lives. Along the way, it provides actionable agendas for change, which tracks well with Fierro’s career as a consultant whose work centers on ethics, leadership, and social justice and with her own willingness to address her own “internalized racism.” Oddly, though, the book accepts a common right-wing trope that overstates the prevalence of leftist “cancel culture” that allegedly targets the nonwoke and, in doing so, uses some of the same talking points that people opposed to anti-racist work often use.

An often nuanced analysis of the prevalence of American racism.

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-578-37863-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Collective Power Media

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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