At the top of the half-dozen books recently published on Bears Ears and a pleasure for travelers in the Southwest.



The popular historian and explorer of the Southwest digs deep into the secrets of a remote slice of the American wilderness.

Roberts begins his narrative journey at a high place called Cedar Mesa, the epicenter of the geological and geographical complex of plateaus, canyons, and mountains gathered under the rubric of the Bears Ears National Monument. “All of these landscapes,” he writes, “are virtually uninhabited today but incredibly rich in antiquities.” They have also been the locale for busy generations of “pothunters,” whose illegal gathering of archaeological materials has removed those things from their context. The author, who for some reason continues to use the now-discredited term Anasazi for the ancient peoples of the region, delivers a fluent, anecdotal history that includes accounts of his own travels. The narrative encompasses the sometimes-intersecting lives of figures like Edward Abbey and Zane Grey on the literary front and the likes of Butch Cassidy and an anti-government activist son of Cliven Bundy’s on the criminal edge. Roberts’ own travels sometimes got him into trouble, as when, out in a remote corner of the monument, he encountered a Navajo man who threatened him with violence for trespassing on Native land even though another Navajo had given him permission to be there. The author is strong on both history and anthropology, aware of the most recent theories on such matters as Navajo origins. “Among southwestern Athapaskans, only the Navajo and the Western Apache have clans,” he notes, lending credence to the emerging thought that those migratory peoples might have absorbed some of the original inhabitants. Like Craig Childs’ kindred (though more poetic) book House of Rain (2007), Roberts’ latest combines research, journalism, and memoir in a satisfying whole that will please fans of his earlier books of both travel in wild places and key moments in Native American history.

At the top of the half-dozen books recently published on Bears Ears and a pleasure for travelers in the Southwest.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00481-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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