This “Tour Guide Confidential” just doesn’t have quite the same zest as other memoirs of this nature.




A memoir about working as a cultural tour guide in rural Alaska.

This remembrance of working briefly as a guide in remote Alaska may prove a bit too academic for biography fans and a bit too straightforward to intrigue the literary crowd. Now an anthropologist (more properly, a “project ethnographer”) at Simon Fraser University, Bunten wrote this diary of sorts while she was studying for her doctorate at UCLA. There, she discovered the ferocious system that guides students to certain inevitable ends. “This brand of liberal, elite discrimination disguised as privilege followed me to graduate school,” she writes, “where my advisers in the anthropology department insisted that because I’m Alaska Native, I would have to conduct original research in Alaska….Working for a tribe I’m not related to, in a place I’ve never lived, would have to be proxy for ‘real’ anthropology, the kind where the intrepid explorer travels to an exotic destination to live among strangers in a strange land.” Bunten landed a job with Tribal Tours, a small company in Sitka, Alaska, that focuses on the multifaceted Tlingit people. From here, she walks readers through the strange process of being a tour guide, which includes catering to mobs of ill-informed cruise-ship passengers, cracking bad jokes to skirt issues like cultural genocide, and developing an alternative persona to deal with questions like, “Do you live in a house?” There is also a lot of history, cultural anthropology and a little self-searching about her place among a people who only loosely share her heritage, as well as working in a business that is torn between the economic realities of tourism and the desire to offer visitors a genuine experience that reflects the nature of the Tlingit people. Bunten provides some value for invested readers, but generalists may find this equivalent to reading an intern’s autobiography.

This “Tour Guide Confidential” just doesn’t have quite the same zest as other memoirs of this nature.

Pub Date: March 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8032-3462-8

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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