THE RATS HAD NEVER LEFT

CONQUERING COLONISTS & SYSTEMIC RACISM

An engaging analysis of the persistent vestiges of colonialism.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A South African psychologist surveys the lasting legacies of systemic racism in this debut book.

Borrowing from Albert Camus’ apothegm regarding the aftermath of Europe’s bubonic plague—the “rats had never left but went underground”—author Karani argues that, although we may live in a post-colonial world, colonialism’s legacy of systemic racism is still with us in “embedded mindsets.” Believing that “overcoming colonialism’s insidious impact requires freeing the oppressed mind,” the author offers readers a historical survey of colonialism and racist ideology from European enslavement of Africans through the killing of George Floyd and police response to Black Lives Matter protests. Interspersed throughout are more theoretical assessments that explore, for instance, anti-intellectualism in the United States and the toll of racism on Black mental health. Karani’s astute observations arise not only from his extensive research (the book includes 300-plus endnotes) and scholarly background as a clinical psychologist and professor, but also from personal experience. South Africa’s apartheid regime forcibly closed his father’s retail business in 1959, effectively condemning his family to poverty. Young Karani followed the leadership of Steve Biko and other revolutionaries who formed the Black Consciousness Movement. This “self-identification” as Black in a nation that divided colonized people into competing racial categories “empowered” Karani to pursue advanced academic degrees and convinced him that previously colonized people must dismantle the mental shackles and other ideological constructs left in colonization’s wake. Additionally, Karani’s later immigration to Canada, his current home, revealed an equally painful legacy of sustained discrimination toward Black immigrants and an even worse history of genocide against Indigenous citizens despite its comparative stability as a liberal democracy that nominally supports multiculturalism and human rights. This work is particularly adept at condensing longue durée history across multiple periods and continents, as well as complex colonial and post-colonial theories, into an accessible, well-written narrative accompanied by textbox vignettes and charts.

An engaging analysis of the persistent vestiges of colonialism.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2022

ISBN: 9781039139862

Page Count: 276

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

Close Quickview