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SELFLESS

THE SOCIAL CREATION OF “YOU”

An informed, thought-provoking consideration of the relational dimensions of our lives.

How our interactions with others make us who we are.

Lowery, a social psychologist and Stanford professor, explores how our selfhood is not a stable entity under our own firm control but rather a product of the social worlds we inhabit. “Our self is a construction of relationships and interactions,” he writes, “constrained and yet in search of the feeling of freedom.” Lowery synthesizes a range of scientific research in making his case while punctuating specific claims with examples drawn from ancient and modern literary sources ranging from the Epic of Gilgamesh to Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground. The author investigates many commonly held assumptions that selfhood is, for the most part, a privately malleable entity originating within us at birth and that absolute liberty in defining it might be both possible and desirable. We know ourselves better and can improve our chances at self-improvement, the author explains convincingly, if we accept that our identities are fluid, socially determined phenomena. Though such arguments are by no means new, and some of the summaries of others’ complex explanations of selfhood may seem a little reductive, the book offers an accessible and absorbing account of the relational dimensions of our reflective being. A particularly rich chapter is dedicated to the relevance of a relational selfhood to race, which has routinely been understood according to fixed or “essentialist” categories. Ultimately, Lowery’s advice about the wisdom of accepting one’s dependence on others, and of fulfilling one’s moral obligations to a community of interconnected selves, is well founded. “To describe or define your best self is to accept limits, constraints on what you are,” he writes. “In this context, constraint should be a source of comfort, more a hug than a straitjacket.”

An informed, thought-provoking consideration of the relational dimensions of our lives.

Pub Date: March 28, 2023

ISBN: 9780062913005

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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