A well-researched, culturally sensitive time capsule.

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DISCO AND THE REMAKING OF AMERICAN CULTURE

Through the lens of the music and its ethos, a former DJ examines what made the folly of the disco years so indelible.

Echols (American Studies and History/Rutgers Univ.; Shaky Ground: The Sixties and Its Aftershocks, 2002, etc.) opens with the memory of one of the early zeniths of her music-programming career in the mid-1970s. She worked at the Rubaiyat discotheque in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the disco movement slowly began to influence her clientele, including “Madonna Ciccone, who is said to have danced there before dropping out of U of M and heading off to New York.” Yet, the author notes, the epoch had its detractors; many dismissed the trend as a “lamentable and regrettable period in American history.” That general consensus failed to thwart Barry White, whose “Love’s Theme” went on to become the first disco track to crack the top spot on the Billboard pop charts. Distinguished with hints of traditional funk and soul, the “insistent and whomping” beat of the R&B and Motown sound became the “incubator of disco.” From a cultural standpoint, however, Echols points out that conversely, this particular harmonious amalgam “seemed a crazy reversal of all that the black freedom movement had fought for.” The author attributes much of disco’s success to the homosexual community’s collective embrace, spurred by gay DJs like Tom Moulton (originator of the “remix”), who not only held prominent posts in nightclubs, but also within the music promotional industry. From disco’s earliest incarnations, homosexual men celebrated the “gay glitterball culture” at respected New York nightclubs. But as their popularity increased, so did a propensity toward racial and gender exclusivity. The mid-’70s became all about “the music, mix, drugs, lights, sound systems, and an unmistakable uniformity of dress.” A resurgence in male “macho” masculinity followed, though female (and male) “divas” like Donna Summer, Patti LaBelle and Sylvester dominated the charts. Echols concludes with contemporary commentary on disco’s predictable resurgence since “pop music is full of unlikely turnabouts.”

A well-researched, culturally sensitive time capsule.

Pub Date: March 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06675-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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