A deeply resonant memoir of hard-won authenticity.



A probing, wise investigation of racial identity.

Throughout the memoir, Carroll, a podcast host and cultural critic who develops a wide variety of content at WNYC, demonstrates the most indelible qualities of the genre: an ability to inhabit a version of one’s self that no longer exists; an instinct for what’s important and what isn’t; and a voice that implies personal growth gained through missteps and ultimately self-knowledge. Born to a White mother and Black father, the author was adopted by a White New Hampshire couple with a laissez-faire approach to parenting and very little concept of race. Growing up with a fierce desire to fit in with the popular White kids at school, she entered into a toxic relationship with her birth mother, Tess, a narcissist who took every opportunity to tear down and interrogate her daughter’s Blackness and self-esteem. The narrative, which reflects the author’s “decades-long, self-initiated rite of passage,” is a blunt, urgent study of racial identity and an attempt to chronicle “my ultimate arrival at the complicated depths of my own blackness.” Along the way, she encountered a variety of racists, passive and aggressive, and a series of White boys who served as goals to be attained. Carroll also underwent a series of hairstyles, which become symbols for stages of self-actualization. But the heart of the book lies in her back and forth with Tess, who cast a spell on her daughter even as she spewed racist venom and situated herself more as a jealous peer than a dutiful parent. Carroll’s quest for authenticity fuels the text, but there’s also a quietly tragic subtext of failed parenting, of the many ways one generation can put its own needs before those of the next. The author deftly untangles these pitfalls, creating a specific and personal story that is also compelling for general readers.

A deeply resonant memoir of hard-won authenticity.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982116-25-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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