Engaging subject matter and sympathetic protagonists do not entirely compensate for Barton's ponderous prose, but the book...

PRAY THE GAY AWAY

THE EXTRAORDINARY LIVES OF BIBLE BELT GAYS

Barton (Sociology and Women’s Studies/Morehead State Univ.; Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers, 2006) examines the experiences of gay people living in the Bible Belt.

The author’s tales of gay life in this area of the country, where anti-gay evangelical Protestantism holds sway, range from the harrowing to the mundane. This is not a book about random anti-gay violence; the majority of Barton's subjects were treated more brutally by their own families than by strangers. The author opens by stating that although she has “lived in Kentucky for 20 years, 17 of these in lesbian relationships,” she “had not personally experienced…much homophobia until a spring day in 2003” when, after she told someone that she was a lesbian, he characterized homosexuality as an “abomination.” It is unclear what conclusions readers are meant to draw from this episode, which sounds far less traumatic than much of what her subjects experienced at the hands of their own parents. One thing is clear: Being gay is difficult anywhere, and it's especially difficult in a place dominated by conservative Christian ideology. Barton's subjects' painful stories of rejection by their families and communities, as well as the earnest desire of most to reconcile their personal identities with the faith in which they were raised, are eloquent enough to arouse the sympathy of even avowed opponents of gay rights. The most compelling parts of the book are the lengthy quotes from Barton's intelligent subjects. The author's own voice is less commanding and too littered with academic jargon.

Engaging subject matter and sympathetic protagonists do not entirely compensate for Barton's ponderous prose, but the book is still worthwhile reading for anyone interested in what it means to be gay in an overtly hostile environment.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8147-8637-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM

Known for her often contentious perspectives, New York Times opinion writer Weiss battles societal Jewish intolerance through lucid prose and a linear playbook of remedies.

While she was vividly aware of anti-Semitism throughout her life, the reality of the problem hit home when an active shooter stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue where her family regularly met for morning services and where she became a bat mitzvah years earlier. The massacre that ensued there further spurred her outrage and passionate activism. She writes that European Jews face a three-pronged threat in contemporary society, where physical, moral, and political fears of mounting violence are putting their general safety in jeopardy. She believes that Americans live in an era when “the lunatic fringe has gone mainstream” and Jews have been forced to become “a people apart.” With palpable frustration, she adroitly assesses the origins of anti-Semitism and how its prevalence is increasing through more discreet portals such as internet self-radicalization. Furthermore, the erosion of civility and tolerance and the demonization of minorities continue via the “casual racism” of political figures like Donald Trump. Following densely political discourses on Zionism and radical Islam, the author offers a list of bullet-point solutions focused on using behavioral and personal action items—individual accountability, active involvement, building community, loving neighbors, etc.—to help stem the tide of anti-Semitism. Weiss sounds a clarion call to Jewish readers who share her growing angst as well as non-Jewish Americans who wish to arm themselves with the knowledge and intellectual tools to combat marginalization and defuse and disavow trends of dehumanizing behavior. “Call it out,” she writes. “Especially when it’s hard.” At the core of the text is the author’s concern for the health and safety of American citizens, and she encourages anyone “who loves freedom and seeks to protect it” to join with her in vigorous activism.

A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-13605-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

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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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