A fresh approach to a familiar phenomenon.

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WILD NIGHTS

HOW TAMING SLEEP CREATED OUR RESTLESS WORLD

A thorough probing into why sleep is such a problem for so many in contemporary society.

Reiss (English/Emory Univ.; Theaters of Madness: Insane Asylums and Nineteenth-Century American Culture, 2008, etc.) takes both a long and surprisingly wide view of sleep, looking back over the centuries to examine literature, cultures, and social and medical history. The author’s main thesis is that we have too rigid a sense of what sleep should be: a private experience of eight solid hours in a dark, quiet, comfortable setting. “Only over the past few hundred years,” he writes, “did sleep come to be privatized, packaged into one standard time slot, and removed from nature’s great rhythmic cycles of temperature and light.” Human sleep patterns, he writes, are remarkably flexible, and there is no single correct and healthy way to sleep. Before the industrialized and electrified age, sleep often came in segments throughout the day and night, and in many cases, groups—entire families—slept together. The author devotes an entire chapter to Thoreau, who in Walden showed his preoccupation with sleeping and waking on one’s own schedule. Reiss also cites a wide variety of other writers, including B.F. Skinner, Benjamin Spock, Maurice Sendak, and Arianna Huffington. He even considers the videos of Andy Warhol and Kanye West, and he includes sleep researchers’ studies, anecdotes of troubled sleepers, and the unhappy stories of frazzled parents struggling to put their children to sleep. In addition, Reiss takes readers to diverse locations, from utopian communities, such as the Shakers, to insane asylums and the holds of slave ships. In the final chapter, the author tackles the question of where sleep is heading and finds no clear answer; some people will perhaps find flexibility, but others will remain controlled by unforgiving schedules.

A fresh approach to a familiar phenomenon.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-06195-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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