A sharp, compelling collection of social and cultural criticism.

TOO FAT, TOO SLUTTY, TOO LOUD

THE RISE AND REIGN OF THE UNRULY WOMAN

A BuzzFeed culture writer examines how some high-profile women defy cultural stereotypes about femininity.

Donald Trump’s recent election as president marked “the beginning of a backlash [against women] that has been quietly brewing for years. Petersen (Scandals of Classic Hollywood, 2014) offers thought-provoking profiles of controversial women who “question, interrogate or otherwise challenge the status quo.” She opens with tennis star Serena Williams, who defied the sport that made her famous not only by being black, but also by “her body…her personality, her resilience and her fortitude.” While winning championships and lucrative endorsements, Williams has also had to fight against tennis’ “double standard of decorum” that gives more room to male players to display their anger on the court than it does women. Like Williams, perennial rebel Madonna is also known for her outspokenness and daring. But as she approaches her 60th birthday, ageism has become an issue. Rather than accede to cultural norms and gradually withdraw from public life, however, “Oldanna” dares to make the statement that an aging female body can still be “sexual, powerful and visible,” despite the fact she built her career on celebrating youth and beauty. Among the most problematic of all the women Petersen examines is Caitlyn Jenner. In her pre-transition life as the ultra-masculine Bruce Jenner, she was the father of a famous reality TV family. Since her much-heralded coming out, she has adopted a culturally palatable mode of femininity, which she has coupled with a desire to deepen her understanding of gender nonconformity. But as the author points out, “Jenner’s openness” to such explorations has come at a cost, including low ratings for and the eventual cancellation of her reality TV show. Through incisive analysis of the ways in which contemporary society polices femininity, Petersen reveals the fraught relationship between women and celebrity. The author also profiles Melissa McCarthy, Hillary Clinton, and Lena Dunham, among others.

A sharp, compelling collection of social and cultural criticism.

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-57685-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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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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