Though repetitive or clichéd in places, this collection’s standouts far outweigh its missteps.


Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God


Nelson and Batey curate superior snippets of women’s creative nonfiction.

In this follow-up to Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection (2012), members of the online community A Band of Women share anecdotes of dealing with life’s inevitable transitions. Divided into six overlapping sections, these three- to five-page essays range in topic from the harrowing (divorce and alcoholism) to the uplifting (learning to swim at 40; expecting twins after infertility treatment). In the collection’s opener, “Love You Hard,” one of the strongest and most affecting pieces, Abby Maslin talks about her husband’s traumatic brain injury: “Life Part II is all about relearning the basics,” she writes. Heather Kristin’s tale of finding her father homeless on the streets of New York City recalls Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle (2005), while Kelly Corrigan and Christine Beirne offer accounts of approaching breast cancer with grace and humor. Some authors mistakenly attempt to cover too much ground—fitting a whole life’s misadventures into a few pages—whereas the most successful zoom in on a specific moment but still draw larger lessons. For example, Vanessa Hua reconnects with her Chinese heritage when she cares for her Parkinson’s-afflicted father, and a semester spent in Israel teaches Abby Ellin that “there are no geographical cures.” Likewise, an ordinary shopping trip reminds Leslie Lagerstrom of the complications of raising a transgender child, and 9/11 widow Christie Coombs plunges back into grief when she receives a call identifying her husband’s elbow. More ruthless editing could eliminate redundant or corny material (one too many empty nest meditations, plus some Chicken Soup for the Soul–style sentimentality), but on the whole, this is a wonderful introduction to contemporary autobiographical writing. Minibios reveal that many of these essays are from memoirs in progress or by writers with blogs or magazine columns. Every reader will discover experiences that resonate and new authors to love.

Though repetitive or clichéd in places, this collection’s standouts far outweigh its missteps.

Pub Date: May 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0988375468

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Nothing But The Truth Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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