A persuasive argument for nurturing “childhood normalcy” even for the stunningly gifted and talented.

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THE HIDDEN LIVES AND LESSONS OF AMERICAN CHILD PRODIGIES

A journalist vividly portrays the positive and negative impacts of being a child prodigy.

Literary editor of the Atlantic, Hulbert (Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children, 2003, etc.) follows her previous examination of the challenges of child-rearing by homing in on a special population of children: prodigies. She begins her sympathetic, sharply drawn profiles early in the 20th century with William James Sidis (his godfather was philosopher William James), a mathematics genius who entered Harvard at the age of 11, and his contemporary Norbert Wiener, the founder of cybernetics, who at the age of 15 arrived at Harvard as a graduate student in zoology. Other prodigies include the talented and adorable child star Shirley Temple; African-American pianist Philippa Schuyler; irascible chess champion Bobby Fischer; eccentric computer whizzes such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Jonathan Edwards; and several astonishing pianists: Jay Greenberg, who produced a staggering number of compositions by the time he was 8; Matt Savage, who transferred his love of numbers to the piano keyboard; and Marc Yu, who performed with Lang Lang at Carnegie Hall when he was 10. Investigating the correlation between genius and autism, Hulbert cites the observation of one Juilliard teacher: “Genius is an abnormality, and can signal other abnormalities,” such as “A.D.D. or O.C.D. or Asperger’s." Yet parents are apt to focus on the outsized talent, while often failing to help the child deal with social and emotional problems. Growing into adulthood, many prodigies experience depression and lash out in rebellion; early mastery “may become shadowed by anxiety, blocking the engagement with a wider world that helps gifts and creativity flourish.” Hulbert intends these portraits to serve as cautionary tales in “an overachiever culture of hovering adults and social media-saturated youths,” and she counsels parents against “the impulse to herald children’s talents” at the risk of “inspiring swelled heads and raising sky-high hopes that are likely to be disappointed.”

A persuasive argument for nurturing “childhood normalcy” even for the stunningly gifted and talented.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-94729-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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