The power of reading provides the emotional engine driving this insightful, profound, and heartfelt book.



An impassioned inquiry into the literary roots of Black culture.

Griffin, a Guggenheim fellow and inaugural chair of the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department at Columbia University, delivers a glowing “series of meditations on the “fundamental questions of humanity, reality, politics, and art” by way of personal memoir and a thematic reading of Black literature, history, music, and art. The author begins by honoring her father, whose influential shadow looms large. Toni Morrison’s words, like her father’s, “shaped the way I saw and thought about the world.” Phillis Wheatley jump-started Griffin’s inquiry into the concept of mercy, also reflected in novels by Charles Chesnutt and Morrison’s A Mercy, which, like Wheatley’s poems, made her consider how writing might also be an “act of one’s will to be free.” In “Black Freedom and the Idea(l) of America” Griffin juxtaposes two giants of Black American history, Frederick Douglass and Barack Obama. Douglass “provided the ground from which Obama ascended,” and the former president’s Dreams From My Father demonstrated how Malcolm X informed his “understanding of Black nationalism.” Addressing the painful question of justice regarding slavery, racism, segregation, and mass incarceration, Griffin turns to Richard Wright, Ernest Gaines, and Morrison for answers. The author discusses the legacy of resistance via the works of the 19th-century abolitionist writer Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Toni Cade Bambara, whose works show “rage felt and expressed in disciplined emotions, organized and directed toward fighting injustice.” Reading Langston Hughes, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Jesmyn Ward, Griffin ponders how “Black death haunts Black writing.” James Baldwin’s transformative fiction is “attentive to Black love,” while Black music “made of us a people.” Invoking Lorraine Hansberry’s “pioneering” A Raisin in the Sun, Griffin also meditates on the joys of gardening: “Even in the midst of crisis, the flowers bloom.” Throughout, like a mournful mantra, she calls their names: Trayvon, Breonna, George, and so many others.

The power of reading provides the emotional engine driving this insightful, profound, and heartfelt book.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-393-65190-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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

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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 virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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