A wise and levelheaded look at cyberbullying and some possible remedies.



A wide-ranging manual focuses on the world of cyberbullying.

When bullying happens to somebody in person, writes Beam at the outset of his compact nonfiction debut, it’s fairly obvious. A fight erupts between children in a schoolyard; the kids are separated and brought to the principal’s office; the matter is quickly sorted out; and the bully is cautioned or punished. But cyberbullying leaves no traces, the author points out, and it’s far from being merely a childhood problem. “Plenty of adults are cyberbullied through dating apps, chat rooms, social media threads, and the posting of unwanted content, like in photo extortion,” he writes. “This problem does not just stop at cyberbullying; it also extends to cyberhate, where people are targeted because of their religious belief, skin color, sexual orientation, or political views.” In other words, everyone lives every day in an environment fraught with many forms of cyberbullying, and Beam’s book provides a wide-angle overview of some of the most prevalent forms it can take in the modern age. These range from the rise of online sexual predators “catfishing” students and young people online to cyber-harassment designed to “target, embarrass, and silence the victim.” The author notes that new advances in technology make virtually every aspect of cyberbullying both easier and more pervasive: “The sky is the limit” for things like online impersonation. But even older forms of online activity can be enlisted for bullying, as when individuals make a website intended “to aggregate everything they want to share with the public, ensuring the target is completely embarrassed.”

In all such cases, Beam tends to favor straightforward, common-sense advice. When it comes to pirated photo manipulation, for instance, he advises that people never send “sensitive content” to anybody (even a trusted friend) that they wouldn’t want broadcast to the entire world—a sound rule for all aspects of online dealings. The book’s organizing message, aimed at parents and teachers, details all the clues that may point to children or teens being cyberbullied (excessively hiding their phones, indulging in sudden and unexplained bursts of anger, withdrawing from families—all signs that they’re concealing something that’s troubling and embarrassing them). Beam underscores the deadly urgency of such pressures by reminding his adult readers that cyberbullying can happen to anybody and that it can quickly create very dark feelings of rage and helplessness in its victims—feelings that can push even a seemingly self-confident young person to despair and perhaps thoughts of revenge or suicide. For all of this, Beam offers some simple correctives: privatize online accounts, set internet times and enforce them, bolster self-esteem in kids and teens by “encouraging their passions (even if they deviate from your idea of cool).” The author quite rightly emphasizes the crucial importance of teaching children empathy, and the advice given here will help greatly with that. Anyone who has ever dealt with cyberbullying will find useful insights in these pages.

A wise and levelheaded look at cyberbullying and some possible remedies.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73426-732-7

Page Count: 74

Publisher: Beam Reach Ventures

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.


Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.


A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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