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Kirkus Indie Best Books of the Month- March

A timely, cogent work that should be required reading for policymakers.

JEFFERSON, THE ARMY, AND THE INTERNET

HOW TO STRENGTHEN NATIONAL SECURITY, THE ECONOMY, AND GRASSROOTS COMMUNITIES

A call for an Army-led volunteer corps to revitalize rural and small-town America.

Meyerson’s (Nature’s Army, 2001, etc.) persuasive narrative spans America’s founding to the present as he pitches a domestic nation-building program, modeled after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. He revisits the little-known origin of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which was created by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to teach “useful skills” for developing the nation’s nascent infrastructure. He details the Army’s unheralded administration of the first national parks, nearly a century later, as well as its largely ignored role in operating Depression-era CCC camps. Since World War II, the Army’s nation-building focus has shifted abroad. The author makes the case that today’s hollowed-out heartland economy increases America’s vulnerability to terrorism and natural disasters, and he catalogs why the Army is uniquely qualified to lead a theoretical redevelopment and training program that he calls the American Resilience Corps. He brings together a few different trends, including the rise of the internet and digital manufacturing (specifically, 3-D printing), which he says make decentralization possible. He also highlights the Army’s embrace of “Net Zero” energy, water, and waste practices, driven by deployments at remote foreign locations; its strategies to preserve readiness by “islanding” domestic bases from the power grid and other terrorism targets, he says, put it at the vanguard of sustainable development. Meyerson, with his experience as a wartime journalist, congressional staffer, policy analyst, and independent scholar, blends smooth prose, detailed research, and a command of U.S. military history; he also shows a firm grasp of potential policymaking pitfalls. His supporting evidence is clear and compelling, and his proposal is a pleasure to read. The 2016 presidential campaign highlighted America’s urgent need to rebuild regions that have been left behind by the economy, but anger and blame have eclipsed concrete plans. This is a substantive program, however, that’s worthy of serious national debate.

A timely, cogent work that should be required reading for policymakers.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-79942-0

Page Count: 326

Publisher: John Marr Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

The author refers to herself as “an observational ironist,” and her incisive comments on black life’s contradictions make...

DE FACTO FEMINISM

ESSAYS STRAIGHT OUTTA OAKLAND

This extraordinary set of autobiographical essays gives insight into a black woman’s life in the arts: everything from joining the Black Panthers to avoiding African-American chick lit.

Juanita (Virgin Soul, 2013) grew up in Oakland, California, in the 1950s. She remembers a “goody-goody” childhood of reading, spelling bees, and chores. America at the time was “a Jell-O & white bread land of perfection and gleaming surfaces,” she notes in her essay “White Out”; the only blacks on screen played mammies and maids. She joined the Black Panthers at San Francisco State in 1966 and became a junior faculty member in its Black Studies department—the nation’s first. In perhaps the most powerful piece in the collection, “The Gun as Ultimate Performance Poem,” written after the death of Trayvon Martin, Juanita sensitively discusses the split in the Black Panthers over carrying guns. She liked guns’ symbolic associations and even kept one in her purse while working at a post office. But she now recognizes the disastrous consequences of romanticizing a weapon: “It was Art. It was Metaphor. It was loaded with meaning and death.” In another standout, “The N-word,” she boldly explores the disparate contexts in which the epithet appears: in August Wilson’s play Fences, in comedy routines, and intimately between friends. “It’s not problem or solution; it’s an indication,” she concludes. The title essay contends that black women are de facto feminists because they’re so often reduced to single parenting in poverty. Elsewhere, she discusses relationships between black men and women, recalls rediscovering poetry as a divorcée with an 8-year-old son in New Jersey (“Tough Luck,” which includes her own poems), remembers a time spent cleaning condos, and remarks that Terry McMillan has ensured that a “black female writer not writing chick lit has an uphill challenge.”

The author refers to herself as “an observational ironist,” and her incisive comments on black life’s contradictions make this essay collection a winner.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9716352-1-0

Page Count: 230

Publisher: EquiDistance Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

An engaging guide that offers a valuable rewards solution for frazzled moms and dads.

REWARDS FOR KIDS!

READY-TO-USE CHARTS & ACTIVITIES FOR POSITIVE PARENTING

A debut manual addresses many problems in parenting with a dash of fun and plenty of advice.

“He started it.” “Can you read one more story?” “I’ll do it later.” From early toddlerhood on, it seems to many a harried parent that the child-rearing path is littered with a litany of endless complaints followed by seat-of-the-pants deal-making. Tired moms and dads just might give in to expert cajoling from young ones or, worse, bribe them for more desirable outcomes. As Shiller (Child Study Center/Yale Univ.) shows in her book, there’s a savvier method of approaching standard-issue parenting troubles: the rewards plan. While many readers may have seen a generalized version of “sticker charts,” Shiller, ably assisted by Schneider, delves deeply into the subject, first by assuring the worried parent that a rewards plan is not a bribe and that kids who follow such strategies do not grow up expecting prizes for every task when they get older. The volume, with illustrations by Matthews, discusses various probable situations in detail and with good humor. What if daily hygiene is a battle? A kid who loves gymnastics could earn stickers toward lessons, for example. To encourage a child to follow bedtime rules, his mother could offer a trip to an amusement park if he earns 55 check marks on the Keeping Track charts in the next month. The key is to bargain during downtime and not when everyone’s nerves are frayed (“Wait for a calm moment. Don’t offer a reward while the hysteria is in full flower”). Although Shiller encourages dialogue, she points out that there are ways to make sure that kids don’t ask for Nintendo systems every week they make their beds. How? Negotiate. Parents of older children should especially appreciate how the same system can be used for their situations—say, when sleepovers become difficult to execute. The book includes a variety of pullout charts (Zoo, Treasure Hunt, Dinosaur Land) that can be colored in right away and examples of stickers to use when a kid slips up and makes a mistake. A cleareyed and informative look at the trials of parenting, this readable book presents one solution customized for a bevy of situations, providing a template to tackle practically every challenge through this new lens.

An engaging guide that offers a valuable rewards solution for frazzled moms and dads.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 978-1-59147-006-9

Page Count: 131

Publisher: American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

A multifaceted life story that will enthrall architecture and history buffs as well as scholars.

ARCHITECTURE + ADVOCACY

ROBERT TRAYNHAM COLES, FAIA

A beautifully crafted debut memoir about an award-winning African-American architect who broke through societal barriers and helped others do the same.

Written and compiled with the assistance of Siener (A Guide to Gloucester County, Virginia Historical Manuscripts, 1976) and Coles’ wife, Sylvia, this engaging account tells the story of a successful 50-year career and passion for social justice. Born in 1929, Coles was raised in the heart of Buffalo, New York. He attended the University of Minnesota as the sole African-American student in architecture and received his master’s from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Founding his architectural firm in 1963, Coles’ love of the city and its people is reflected in his work. For example, he designed the award-winning Joseph J. Kelly Gardens housing complex to complement the community’s existing cityscape. Meeting and working with community organizers—such as the Rev. Richard Prosser and Saul Alinsky—allowed Coles to combine his thirst for activism with the occupation he loved. Commissioned by Prosser, Coles designed Buffalo’s “Friendship House,” a local hub for social programs, activities, and a food pantry. Dedicated to helping more minorities become architects (Coles referred to black architects as an “endangered species”), he hired 30 African-American architects and interns from 1964 to 2004. In 1995, he became the first African-American chancellor of the American Institute of Architects. Coles’ smooth-flowing prose is a pleasure to peruse, and his voice is memorable. For example, when a teacher discouraged Coles from becoming an architect because “there were no Black architects,” the young design student refused to give up: “Undiscouraged, I resolved to be an architect and one of the best.” Adorned with a variety of color and black-and-white photos and some of Coles’ designs, this informative page-turner is suitable for both in-depth analysis or an afternoon of browsing. Some of the photos—like one with Coles and Saul Alinsky—are particularly intriguing. The book includes appendices for further exploration, such as articles written by Coles.

A multifaceted life story that will enthrall architecture and history buffs as well as scholars.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9839170-2-1

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Buffalo Arts Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

An engrossing look at a wide-ranging career in the foreign service as well as a sweeping story of a globe-trotting life.

DIPLOMATIC TALES

STORIES FROM A FOREIGN SERVICE CAREER AND ONE FAMILY'S ADVENTURES ABROAD

A memoir details the author’s world travels and diverse responsibilities as a United States Information Agency officer.

Luchs’ (Children of the Manse, 2009) book explores “the behind-the-scenes activity and the lives of diplomats and their families,” using his own “experiences as examples.” After passing the rigorous examination needed to get a position in the foreign service, Luchs began his career in 1966 and was soon posted to a position in Madagascar as a junior officer in training. Upon arrival, however, he found the embassy understaffed, and he was immediately given responsibility “for the direction of the economic and commercial, consular, and USAID offices of the embassy.” This was a lot for a young staffer, but Luchs threw himself into his work and was mostly successful in dealing with his many duties and, memorably, a very spoiled American traveler who tested Luchs’ patience. In 1968, the officer and his family moved to Mali for his next posting, where he toiled in a country with a decidedly anti-American atmosphere due to its socialist government and then worked through the country’s military coup. His next stop, in 1970, was Singapore, where he got to witness the nation as it began to modernize and turn into the financial hub that it is today. In 1976, Luchs received an unexpected opportunity at the Paris office, one that was personally rewarding but professionally frustrating—the place was a hotbed of rivalries and lacked focus. By 1984, he was in Malaysia, focusing on the educational exchange between that nation and the United States, and he then finished his career in Australia, culminating in the organization of a visit by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Throughout the absorbing book, Luchs shares captivating geographical and historical tidbits about every country he worked in (A “key to Singapore’s success was the government’s zero tolerance of corruption”). He extensively and lovingly discusses his family, his living arrangements and vacations, and the various political and personal problems that he had to deal with at every stop, from a Navy helicopter landing in “the most public place in Singapore” during the Vietnam War to his son receiving a juvenile diabetes diagnosis. Luchs’ tone remains informative and heartfelt throughout, and the reader gains trenchant insights into an intriguing profession.

An engrossing look at a wide-ranging career in the foreign service as well as a sweeping story of a globe-trotting life.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

An intense tale that gives the tragedies of history a Dutch dwelling and a family name.

AN ADDRESS IN AMSTERDAM

A teenage Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam joins the Resistance and hides out with her parents in this debut novel.

This story’s prologue, set in July 1942, reveals that Rachel Klein—raised to be “a polite Jewish doctor’s daughter”—delivers papers and messages for the Dutch Resistance, and she is almost caught. Returning to May and June 1940, as the Nazis are invading the Netherlands, the tale traces the fortunes of Rachel and her family. Her father is optimistic and doesn’t want to leave his practice; her more radical mother wants to escape to England but won’t leave her husband. As the Nazi occupation settles in, people try to live normally and hope for the best while increasingly draconian restrictions are put upon Jews, which develop into violence, roundups, and disturbing tales of work camps. Rachel and Michiel Drogt, a Christian university student, fall in love, but he chooses to go underground and fight the Nazis. Seeing the Nazis in action, Rachel agrees with his decision. She’s recruited by the Resistance and begins her perilous assignments, finding courage in performing her duties. After the near capture of the prologue, Rachel determines to get herself and her parents into hiding despite their reluctance, which she manages in August 1942. For nearly nine long months they live crammed into a cellar. The family must relocate to a safer refuge, but Nazis are on their scent and closing in. In her well-researched novel, Fillmore vividly portrays Amsterdam, Rachel, and her family. Of special interest is Rachel’s Resistance work: the details of the missions and how she handles the dangers. The author sees the complications in people and situations; though Rachel is heroic, for example, she’s also partly motivated by daydreams of her valor being acknowledged. Similarly, Fillmore doesn’t disguise the squalid conditions of the family’s cramped hiding place. At the same time, her poetic language displays Rachel’s sensibility nicely: her “longing for Michiel was still a low ache like a cello’s part in an orchestra—faint but nearly ever-present, beautiful and painful.” A bibliography and discussion questions are included.

An intense tale that gives the tragedies of history a Dutch dwelling and a family name.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63152-133-1

Page Count: 360

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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