Absorbing, comprehensive, and timely.



This history built around the rise and decline of the Communist Party of the United States of America is a case study in what happens when ideologies clash.

Developing the thesis that ideologies, no matter their actual tenets, tend to promote intolerance, injustice, and lockstep thinking, Marrin charts in his usual thoroughly documented way the upheavals in this country’s political and social climates between the Bolshevik Revolution and the meteoric rise and fall of Joseph McCarthy. He focuses particularly on the role of the CPUSA, characterizing it as an organization of idealists who, he asserts, did promote pacifism, women’s rights, and racial equality—if only to cause disruption and ease the spread of Communism—while turning stubbornly away from the brutal realities of Soviet society under Stalin (“…truly a monster,” the author writes with characteristic verve, “among the worst two or three humans who ever lived”). But, amid accounts of watershed events from Red Scares in 1919 and in the 1940s-’50s to the trials of the Scottsboro Boys, of rampant midcentury Soviet espionage, and the homophobic Lavender Scare purges of the McCarthy era, he also presents an only slightly less critical view of how anti-communism spurred government, business, the press, and organizations from the KKK to the ACLU to react (often badly) to the perceived threat. Readers will be gripped by the drama of past events that offer present-day lessons. Illustrations include photographs and printed propaganda.

Absorbing, comprehensive, and timely. (notes, selected sources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-64429-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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This completely absorbing memoir follows the author from age 16, when she escaped from an abusive home in the late 1970s to become a model in New York City. Although Kelle ultimately succeeds, her path from squalor to security takes her through more abusive relationships, homelessness and a sensational murder trial. Kelle is one scrappy girl, though. With a few good friends and the timely kindness of strangers, she survives. This is a cautionary story to those who dream of similar runs to fame. James pulls no punches in her descriptions of the sexual and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of predatory men in the city and in flashback memories of her violent father. She describes a sexual attack and doesn’t shy away from innuendo in her characters’ dialogue. Stark in its honesty, the book propels readers forward with a sense of suspense worthy of a thriller. James bares her former adolescent soul and proudly celebrates her toughness, while owning up to her mistakes as well. Compelling and fascinating—a striking debut. (Memoir. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0623-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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A critical, captivating, merciful mirror for growing up Black and queer today.



Centers the experiences, desires, and agency of a queer Black boy navigating his evolving selfhood and the challenges of society’s conditional love for his truthful existence.

Queer Black existence has been here forever, and yet rarely has that experience been spotlighted within literature aimed at Black boyhood. This is the context in which this “memoir-manifesto” begins, as Johnson, a still relatively young 33-year-old journalist and activist, debuts his unfolding life story within a vacuum of representation. These stories wrestle with “joy and pain...triumph and tragedy” across many heavy topics—gender policing, sexual abuse, institutional violence—but with a view to freedom on the horizon. Through the witnessing of Johnson’s intimate accounts, beginning with his middle-class New Jersey childhood and continuing through his attendance at a historically Black university in Virginia, readers are invited on their own paths to healing, self-care, and living one’s truth. Those who see themselves outside the standpoint of being Black and queer are called in toward accountability, clarifying an understanding of the history, language, and actions needed to transform the world—not in pity for the oppressed but in the liberation of themselves. This title opens new doors, as the author insists that we don’t have to anchor stories such as his to tragic ends: “Many of us are still here. Still living and waiting for our stories to be told—to tell them ourselves.”

A critical, captivating, merciful mirror for growing up Black and queer today. (Memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-31271-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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