An inclusive, edifying, often fiery assembly of voices articulating the way forward for Black America—and America in general.

THE BLACK AGENDA

BOLD SOLUTIONS FOR A BROKEN SYSTEM

An expansive set of essays highlighting the range and force of Black leadership.

Opoku-Agyeman puts the point bluntly in her introduction: “Black experts matter now more than ever because they are not just critical to providing us with the tools and language to decipher a world bent on undermining Black life—they are also equipped to provide the backdrop of lived experience that further contextualizes their expertise. Experience is the difference between studying racial inequality and living through it.” Each contributor demonstrates the value of such perspectives on an impressively broad set of subjects: climate, health care, wellness, education, technology, criminal justice, the economy, and public policy. Such breadth exposes racist ideologies and practices in diverse areas of contemporary life while also drawing attention to their complex interrelations. As the essays make clear, understanding Black experiences and furthering anti-racist activism means accounting for the sequelae of any "isolated" phenomenon: Fair and effective responses to climate change, for instance, must involve consideration of systemic biases in such areas as housing, policing, and commerce. The contributors repeatedly underscore the urgency of such intersectional approaches during the pandemic, given its disproportionate impact on Black communities. Among the most instructive and stimulating essays in this collection are those that target rapidly evolving forms of racial discrimination, as in Deborah Raji’s examination of the embedded biases and blind spots of Amazon’s facial recognition technology. A particular strength of many of the essays, moreover, is their precision in identifying forms of resistance that have proven successful in the past and in speculating on those that hold special promise for the future. Cliff Albright’s exploration of voter suppression stands out in this regard. “Sustained direct action, including civil disobedience” will be necessary, he affirms, for the protection of voting rights. Tressie McMillan Cottom provides the foreword, and the recommended reading lists a trove of worthy books to further education.

An inclusive, edifying, often fiery assembly of voices articulating the way forward for Black America—and America in general.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27687-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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