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RISE UP

CONFRONTING A COUNTRY AT THE CROSSROADS

A fervent message in hard times.

The outspoken civil rights leader sees a nation in peril.

Baptist minister, former presidential candidate, and founder of the National Action Network, Sharpton mounts an impassioned call for activism. “The hardest job of being a preacher,” Sharpton writes, “is to eulogize the life of someone who did nothing. And so I say, give me something to work with.” The author believes that the U.S. is “at a historical turning point that’s testing our moral character and endangering all we have fought to gain.” A host of issues need bold solutions, he writes, including the criminal justice system, police brutality, health care, gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, climate change, and environmental racism. He derides those he calls latte liberals, “a form of liberalism that smacks of privilege and cocoons itself by staying out of touch with the messiness that often accompanies real hardship”; the Christian right (“not right Christians”); and those who seek only to hold onto power: “the higher up they are in the chain, the more they want to keep things quiet lest they lose the power that got them to that position in the first place.” Sharpton unapologetically portrays himself as a showman who uses his personality as “a lightning bolt for good,” and he cites James Brown, Jesse Jackson, Bishop Frederick Douglas Washington, Adam Clayton Powell, Shirley Chisholm, and, not least, his mother, who nurtured his belief in faith, activism, and responsibility. “If I walk over to you and knock you off your chair, that’s on me,” he writes. “But if I come back next week and you’re still on the floor, that’s on you.” For potential activists, Sharpton offers practical advice: Identify priorities, start small, do your homework, and understand your opposition. As Chisholm once told him, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

A fervent message in hard times.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-96662-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

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  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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

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