An eye-opening read for anyone under the false impression that American Buddhism is primarily the province of Whites.

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BE THE REFUGE

RAISING THE VOICES OF ASIAN AMERICAN BUDDHISTS

A Bay Area writer seeks to redress the seeming cultural invisibility of Asian American Buddhists.

Han’s debut book, which began as her master’s thesis, might have languished as a sociological study for academics if not for the advice of novelist Ruth Ozeki, who told her, “Make it an account of your curiosity. Put yourself in.” Han does exactly that, intertwining scholarly methodology with the story of why she was compelled to take on the subject. Han belongs to the 2% of Asian Americans who have become Buddhist after being raised outside the tradition—in the author’s case, as an atheist. By contrast, 10% of Asian Americans who were raised Buddhist leave the faith. This math exists in the context of American Buddhism’s public image already skewing heavily White. Han cites the popular distinction between “two Buddhisms.” One is viewed as rational, focused on meditation, nonreligious, and White; the other is cultural, traditional, based on ritual, and Asian. “It’s not hard,” writes the author, “to guess which group is more likely to be dismissed as ‘superstitious’ and which group is more likely to be celebrated as ‘scientific.’ ” Anyone who follows mainstream American Buddhism knows which group is at the cultural fore. Han demonstrates convincingly that this is a misrepresentation of the actual demographics within American Buddhism, which is more diverse in terms of both race and denominations than is usually recognized. However, the author isn’t content to settle for scholarship; she wants to advocate on behalf of better representation. Is this discrepancy due to anti-Asian racism or based on an American interest in those aspects of Buddhism that can be easily extracted from their cultural contexts and incorporated into a Western worldview? This is an ongoing debate, to which this book is an important contribution, but not the final answer.

An eye-opening read for anyone under the false impression that American Buddhism is primarily the province of Whites.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: North Atlantic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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

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: today

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