A well-researched, fresh contribution to women’s history.

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

SIX VISIONARY VICTORIAN WOMEN IN SEARCH OF A PUBLIC VOICE

How spiritualism and the occult lit a path to fame and influence.

Co-author of a study of women’s literary friendships, Midorikawa follows up with lively portraits of six mid-19th-century spiritualists who faced down derision to become significant advocates of women’s rights. American sisters Kate, Maggie, and Leah Fox were notorious—and, for a time, highly paid—spiritualists who conveyed messages from the dead through mysterious knocks. From humble beginnings in upstate New York, the Foxes inaugurated the modern spiritualist movement, traveling the world demonstrating their powers. They were repeatedly investigated by skeptics, including committees who strip-searched them, which Leah once described as “very insulting and even violent.” Emma Hardinge, a British woman who started out as a singer and actor, was drawn into the Orphic Circle, a group of aristocratic men who conducted experiments “through the mirror and crystal,” assisted by various “young ladies” who underwent a trance state during the tests. Although initially skeptical, Hardinge discovered her talents as a medium—and public speaker. Touring the U.S., she became a popular orator, supporting Lincoln’s candidacy for president, offering a eulogy after his assassination, raising funds for Union soldiers, and lecturing on the rights of women. Ohio-born Victoria Woodhull, who, like Hardinge, offered “the soothing balm” of connection to Civil War dead, found her fame as a spiritualist enhanced by the attentions of shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. As his protégée, Woodhull amassed considerable wealth and established her own brokerage firm. A passionate champion of female enfranchisement and free love, Woodhull announced her candidacy for president in 1872. Georgina Weldon, a spiritualist whose husband wanted her declared insane, became a prominent spokesperson for reform of Britain’s “lunacy laws.” Hailed by fellow spiritualists, the women were at times mocked, thwarted, and even imprisoned by those who tried to silence them. Drawing on archival material and contemporary accounts of the women’s personal and professional entanglements, Midorikawa briskly recounts their eventful lives, accomplishing the goal inherent in the book’s title.

A well-researched, fresh contribution to women’s history.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64009-230-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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