Misses an important mark or two, but passionately and cleverly champions the Catholic faith.


A wide-ranging, playfully irreverent guide to 21st-century Catholicism.

An American generation raised on the stern televised nostrums of Archbishop Fulton Sheen will hardly be prepared for the tone and execution of this nonfiction collaboration from Mack Hicks (Social Self and the Social Desirability Motive, 2015, etc.) and debut author Andrew Hicks. And that dissonance is no doubt intentional. The Hickses are serious Catholic apologists using a wide array of disciplines and techniques to make their case for faith, citing everything from applied psychology to Bayes’ Theorem. Throughout most of their book, however, they also strive to leaven their deeper concerns with lighter tones. They mention, for instance, that people pay to talk with psychologists, whereas “confession is a safe place to disclose the private, inner self, and Catholics get it for free.” This empirical approach can have pitfalls—the authors’ overview of arguments for the historicity of Jesus, for instance, is wobbly as is their assessment of the famous Shroud of Turin. But the sheer energy of the overall defense on broader subjects compensates quite a bit for the occasional factual lapses that can occur in religious apologia. On the notorious Catholic sex scandals, readers may be surprised to find a mild response. The authors counsel both a more nuanced reading of the Church’s (ultimately faulty) attempts to rehabilitate offending priests and, even more controversially, an avoidance of “hysterical” reactions. The authors are particularly clear on defending the record of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular throughout history as a progressive force in defense of intellectual inquiry and a more ethical treatment of women than other options throughout the ages (“Both Plato and Aristotle endorsed infanticide,” they write, “and guess which gender they were eliminating?”). Catholics especially will treasure such an upbeat defense of their world.

Misses an important mark or two, but passionately and cleverly champions the Catholic faith.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019


Page Count: 192

Publisher: Splenium House, LLC

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2019

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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