An important and touching account of a community’s struggles against LGBTQ+ discrimination.

PRIVATE LOVE, PUBLIC SCHOOL

GAY TEACHER UNDER FIRE

A high school music teacher stands to lose his job after being outed as gay by a student in this work about LGBTQ+ rights.

Yared, an attorney, offers this true story about teacher Gerry Crane’s fight to keep his job at a public high school trying to force him out for being gay. The emotionally charged legal and personal fight began in 1995, the same year “Michigan Governor John Engler signed a law banning same-sex marriage and prohibiting the recognition of out-of-state same sex marriage.” Discrimination against LGBTQ+ citizens was legally endorsed, and a culture of homophobia was rife. A student of Crane’s, one he had disciplined, according to the author, obtained the program for the teacher’s ceremonial marriage to his partner, Randy, and shared it with the administration at Byron Center High School. The school, where Crane taught music and was recognized by students and the administration as an excellent teacher and role model, was “located in religiously and politically conservative West Michigan.” The administration used the town’s religious beliefs to fuel a homophobic battle to oust Crane, portraying him as morally unfit because he was gay. Yared rigorously shares the details of Crane’s struggle to defend his personal life and his courageous efforts to stand up to the school’s many attempts to force him to resign. Crane’s initial refusal to leave his teaching position was met with enmity from the town’s bigoted members but also with dedication and love from many of his students. Crane, a deeply religious man, became a champion for his LGBTQ+ students, closeted and fearful to come out in a hostile climate. Yared was formerly on the board of directors of the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community Network of West Michigan. In presenting Crane’s inspiring story, the author skillfully depicts the culture of a time when personal protests and supportive communities joined forces against discrimination, paving the way for activists to earn more rights for LGBTQ+ citizens everywhere. The author’s prose is on the anecdotal side, missing opportunities to use rich descriptions to tell this compelling tale. Nevertheless, the moving book serves as a significant contribution to the history of protests that individuals have waged to improve the lives of all LGBTQ+ people.

An important and touching account of a community’s struggles against LGBTQ+ discrimination.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73523-710-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Penning History Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2021

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

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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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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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