A Roots for a new generation, rich in storytelling and steeped in history.

THE OTHER MADISONS

THE LOST HISTORY OF A PRESIDENT'S BLACK FAMILY

An African American pediatrician–turned–historical detective investigates her family’s history—and, by extension, that of America.

“Always remember—you’re a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president.” So her mother told Kearse, who opens her account with invocations of the West African griot tradition of storytelling and oral history. That tradition found a place in slavery-era America because most slave owners did not allow enslaved people to learn to read and write. James Madison was different: He allowed his mixed-race son, Jim, to linger within hearing of education lessons. Given well-documented events at nearby Monticello, that Madison had such a son is a surprise only because he had no children with his wife, Dolley, which led many scholars to assume that he “was impotent, infertile, or both.” Evidently not. Enriching that history not just with stories, but with more tangible historical evidence, Kearse visits the plantation, speaking with archaeologists, historians, and the descendants of slaves, reading widely, discovering the long-unknown burial sites of ancestors. She also traveled to Africa and Portugal—for, as her grandfather had told her mother, “our history goes well beyond America’s boundaries.” That Jim was educated did not spare him from being sold, always aware that he was the son of a president. So, too, with the descendants, enslaved and then free, who carried the Madison story to new homes, to be incorporated into the narrative of Madison’s life, as Sally Hemings is in Thomas Jefferson’s. On that note, Kearse writes searchingly of Madison’s language in crafting the Constitution, in which the words “slave” and “slavery” did not appear but that spoke of “other persons”—acknowledged as humans, that is, but still left out. “I understood that this omission,” writes the author, “was why oral history was essential to African Americans having knowledge of how crucial we have always been to what this nation is.” A Roots for a new generation, rich in storytelling and steeped in history. (b/w illustrations)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-60439-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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