Satirical, raw, and unapologetically real, West delivers the bittersweet truths on contemporary living.

THE WITCHES ARE COMING

A cornucopia of shrewd cultural observations from New York Times columnist West (Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, 2016).

In 18 pointed essays, the author addresses a variety of topics, including frivolous internet sensation Grumpy Cat, South Park, Guy Fieri, and the global significance of abortion rights and gender equality. In West’s opening tirade, she denounces Donald Trump’s repetitive usage of the term “witch hunt” while scrutinizing his uncanny “ability to conjure reality out of hot air and spittle.” This essay serves as the launching pad for further pieces exposing the sorry state of contemporary American politics and popular culture. Tough, irritated, and eager to speak her truth, the author expounds on the unifying aspects of visibility and activism to cultivate change, especially when countering the denigration of women. Her sharp wit and no-nonsense sense of humor also shine through her dissection of the work of Adam Sandler, Gwyneth Paltrow’s diet plan (her avocado smoothie “could give diarrhea an existential crisis”), and how movies like Clue shaped her perspectives and appreciation for one-liners and physical comedy. West rarely minces words, especially regarding documentaries on the Ted Bundy murders and the Fyre Festival or when expressing her sheer appreciation for the legacy of Joan Rivers, and her writing is fluid and multifaceted. Though she often rages at social injustice, she also becomes solemnly poetic when discussing her fondness for the drizzly Pacific Northwest, where she was raised and still resides, a place where she can still feel her deceased father’s presence “in the ridges and grooves of my city—we are close, superimposed, separated only by time, and what’s that? This is the only religion I can relate to.” Only occasionally are the smoothly written essays hijacked by intrusive asides—e.g., her experience inside a proselytizing Uber driver’s car, a scene wedged into her reflections on climate change. Though uneven at times, the author drives home the critical issues of our time while taking time to tickle our funny bones.

Satirical, raw, and unapologetically real, West delivers the bittersweet truths on contemporary living.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-44988-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

more