An urgently needed, unyielding book of theoretical and intimate strength.

A HISTORY OF MY BRIEF BODY

A genre-bending memoir in essays from Canada’s first First Nations Rhodes Scholar.

In sharp pieces infused with a yearning for decolonized love and freedom, Belcourt, of the Driftpile Cree Nation, ably balances poetic, philosophical, and political insights throughout this unique book. The author situates his reflections on love, longing, and vulnerability amid a political reality of trauma, violence, and oppression “on the shores of what is now improperly called Canada.” More than a chronological life history, these elegantly crafted essays on his personal experience as an NDN boy explore themes of queer identity, sexuality, and love; family bonds that defy colonialist brutality; and the tension of living and writing on the edges of “killability” and freedom. Belcourt confronts histories of marginalization as well as urgent present-day issues, including the racialized coding and “ontological shaming” that infect online dating apps and what the author sees as a lack of unbiased medical care. “Hospitals have always been enemy territory,” writes the author. “My body, too brown to be innocent, enflames the nurses’ racialized curiosities. For them, there’s always the possibility that my pain is illusory, dreamt up in order to get my next fix.” Stretching memoir beyond personal memory, Belcourt deftly carves out a space where joy and love become vital acts of resistance, and he incisively considers how the state-sanctioned “suppres[sion] of NDN vitality” and resulting “existential hunger” fit within a broader construct of colonialism. Ultimately, Belcourt delivers an inspired call for “a radical remaking of the world,” at once accomplished, expansive, even vulnerable—but never weak. “In the face of antagonistic relation to the past,” he writes in conclusion, “let us start anew in the haven of a world in the image of our radical art.” At the nexus of critical race and queer thought, this should become a timeless interdisciplinary resource for students, educators, and social justice activists.

An urgently needed, unyielding book of theoretical and intimate strength.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-937512-93-4

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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