Both maddening and funny, an eye-opening look at how its daily targets cope with racism.

YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED TO LACEY

CRAZY STORIES ABOUT RACISM

Comedy writer Ruffin recounts the endless indignities involved in being a Black woman in America, with her older sister as foil.

The Ruffin sisters grew up with a mother who “has a bad case of the smarts…and…isn’t fond of people messing with her children”—messing that comes daily from the White residents of Omaha, Nebraska, a city, Ruffin reminds us, that may sound like Hicksville, USA, but is larger than New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Minneapolis. Those White citizens think nothing of using the N-word, nor of touching Black women’s hair, nor of assuming that the Black residents of Omaha are violent and thievish. The latter assumptions build in ways that the sisters find sometimes amusing, sometimes hurtful, always astonishingly awful. Lamar—who remained in Omaha while Ruffin moved to New York, where she writes for Late Night With Seth Meyers—recounts a trip to a store when a friend asked about the cost of a Rolex on display. Told “expensive,” her friend replied, “Bitch, I’ll take two.” Lamar got the same response when she asked about a coffee table and then was floored when the manager informed her of the hardly shattering price tag of $200. Some indignities are nearly inexplicable: One man tried an online come-on with a Confederate flag as backdrop; an elementary school teacher attributed slavery to keeping-up-with-the-Joneses peer pressure. “The reaction always varies because you can only put up with what you can put up with when you can put up with it,” writes Ruffin. “And here’s a little reminder that we shouldn’t have to put up with this shit AT ALL!” Most of the time, the sisters’ reactions are a kind of knowing exasperation. “We are not into trying to educate white America, but maybe we accidentally did,” they conclude. The education is no accident, and White readers can certainly use the wake-up call.

Both maddening and funny, an eye-opening look at how its daily targets cope with racism.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1936-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Consistently illuminating, unabashedly ferocious writing.

GIRLHOOD

An acclaimed nonfiction writer gathers essays embracing the pleasure, pain, and power of growing up as a girl and woman.

In her latest powerful personal and cultural examination, Febos interrogates the complexities of feminism and the "darkness" that has defined much of her life and career. In "Kettle Holes," she describes how experiences of humiliation at the hands of a boy she loved helped shape some of the pleasure she later found working as a dominatrix (an experience she vividly recounted in her 2010 book, Whip Smart). As she fearlessly plumbed the depths of her precocious sexuality in private, she watched in dismay as patriarchal society transformed her into a "passive thing.” In "Wild America," the author delves into body-shaming issues, recounting how, during adolescence, self-hatred manifested as a desire to physically erase herself and her "gigantic" hands. Only later, in the love she found with a lesbian partner, did she finally appreciate the pleasure her hands could give her and others. Febos goes on to explore the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships in "Thesmophoria,” writing about the suffering she brought to her mother through lies and omissions about clandestine—and sometimes dangerous—sexual experiments and youthful flirtations with crystal meth and heroin. Their relationship was based on the "ritual violence" that informed the Persephone/Demeter dyad, in which the daughter alternately brought both pain and joy to her mother. "Intrusions" considers how patriarchy transforms violence against women into narratives of courtship that pervert the meaning of love. In "Thank You for Taking Care of Yourself," Febos memorably demonstrates how the simple act of platonic touching can be transformed into a psychosexual minefield for women. Profound and gloriously provocative, this book—a perfect follow-up to her equally visceral previous memoir, Abandon Me (2017)—transforms the wounds and scars of lived female experience into an occasion for self-understanding that is both honest and lyrical.

Consistently illuminating, unabashedly ferocious writing.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-252-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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