A timely, fervent message from an important voice.

LONG TIME COMING

RECKONING WITH RACE IN AMERICA

A scholar of race looks to the future with hope.

In his latest, an apt follow-up to What Truth Sounds Like and Tears We Cannot Stop, Dyson, a Baptist minister, sociology professor, and contributor to the New York Times and the New Republic, offers a sweeping overview of racism in America through the pretext of letters to seven victims of racial violence: Elijah McClain, Emmett Till, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Hadiya Pendleton, Sandra Bland, and the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Cellphone videos have made such violence shockingly public, stoking widespread anguish: George Floyd’s death, in particular, “struck a nerve.” Although Dyson acknowledges that “something feels different,” he asks, “how far are we willing to go? Are we prepared to sacrifice tradition and convention for genuine transformation?” Each letter offers the author an opportunity to expand upon the complexities of Blacks’ experience of hatred and oppression and to offer tempered suggestions for change. In his letter to Garner, for example, Dyson acknowledges that “Black bodies are still an object of scorn and derision” and “of nearly unconscious rage that rattles the cavernous egos of some men who think themselves mighty because they sport a badge and a gun and have referred swagger.” To counter what he calls the “blue plague,” the author proposes reconstructing police administration “so that the chain of command is shared with multiple agencies of safety and protection” as well as “redesign[ing] the architecture of police units and dispers[ing] their duties across a number of agencies while decentralizing both their composition and their authority.” Writing to Pendleton, killed when she was 15, he shares the “righteous anger” her death provoked, but he warns against responding with cancel culture, which he likens to fascism and sees as “a proxy for white supremacy.” In his letter to fellow clergyman Pinckney, Dyson reveals his enduring yet cautious faith in humanity.

A timely, fervent message from an important voice.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-27675-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

PLAYING WITH MYSELF

Debut memoir from the popular comedian, actor, and writer.

In his debut memoir, Rainbow (“my very real last name”) shares his memories, beginning with his star turn in a backyard production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on his eighth birthday. Growing up on Long Island with a “showbiz-positive family,” the author depicts a flamboyant childhood influenced by his grandmother and her celebrity fascinations. “My eight-year-old childhood bedroom,” he notes, “looked more like the men’s room at a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen.” Rainbow’s engagement with ballet classes and musical theater provoked relentless schoolyard bullying until a family move to Florida introduced him to the unique strengths to be found in coming out and celebrating his obsession with his “lord and savior,” Barbra Streisand. As his parents’ relationship deteriorated, Manhattan beckoned. In between auditions, Rainbow worked as the “jovial gay boy at the host stand” at Hooters. Honing his stand-up comedy skills, he started a blog, which branched off into a series of comedic video sketches that satirized, among other topics, a fictional relationship with Mel Gibson and a tryout for American Idol. When Rainbow began delving into political parodies, particularly his skewering of the chaotic 2016 presidential campaign, his fame exploded. “For the first few years of Trump,” he writes, “I basically lived inside a giant green screen.” Still, he admits that his career has been a constant hustle and that the isolating cross-country tours “ain’t for sissies.” Rapidly paced comic absurdities fill the remainder of the book, as the author provides anecdotes about his struggles to remain upbeat and social media relevant in the fickle entertainment world despite multiple Emmy nominations. In the concluding chapters, the author openly discusses the public backlash from past controversial comments on Twitter, which he attributes to “sloppy efforts as a young comedian” to be funny. Buoyant and campy throughout, Rainbow’s revelations and lighthearted banter will entertain fans and newbies alike.

A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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