THE FIGHTING SOUL

ON THE ROAD WITH BERNIE SANDERS

Among the better campaign confessionals and just the thing for presidential-politics wonks.

The deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders tells war stories from the 2020 presidential run.

“Could Bernie Sanders have won the presidency?” asks Rabin-Havt toward the end of this eventful account. Though Donald Trump was a distant target, Sanders did note that “at its most basic, this election is about preserving democracy.” His real opponents were the members of the Democratic establishment. “The Democratic Party is a disorganized institution,” writes the author, “but it would organize against Bernie Sanders in a way they had not against any candidate—Democratic or Republican. Bernie’s premonition that the establishment would never let us win was coming to pass.” Granted, Sanders called himself a socialist and challenged the Democrats on numerous matters of principle and practice. Rabin-Havt portrays Sanders as alternately genially irreverent (“That, Ari, is a giant motherfucking windmill,” he noted while passing by a wind farm) and singularly focused, micromanagerial down to the details of a campaign bumper sticker and insistent on staying in small hotel rooms—not out of any political symbolism but because he likes to sleep in cold rooms, and big rooms take too long to cool down. More to the point, Sanders had unyielding views, among them that “his own words [are] sacrosanct,” meaning every word of every speech and bill went under his pen; and that government, particularly at a local level, can be an instrument for change for the good. Rabin-Havt delivers an admirable portrait of his candidate, but of more interest to students of applied politics are the numerous episodes in which he explores the art of political calculus: how Sanders decided, for instance, to attack Pete Buttigieg among the field of candidates in the Iowa caucuses as “the candidate of the wealthy elite,” along with the horse trading involved in Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan.

Among the better campaign confessionals and just the thing for presidential-politics wonks.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63149-879-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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