by Claudia Bepko ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 1997
Though flawed, this is an emotionally honest and compelling memoir from the coauthor of Too Good for Her Own Good (1990). It chronicles the experience of a bleak family life in which both parents are alcoholics; her confused feelings as a young girl for a nun, then a priest; her passionless marriage to a man; coming to terms with loving women; her long, tempestuous, committed relationship to one woman, Alice, and that relationship's end; and the return of Bepko's long-lost college lover, Molly. Her perspective on love's conflicts is frank and complex; fights and inner turmoil are well-rendered, and she never makes herself look implausibly right. She chronicles some problems that have not been written about enough: the specific conflicts two women lovers can face when they work together, for example (she and Alice, both therapists, had a joint practice and wrote books together). She also describes deaths in her biological family—her grandmother, father, and mother—and, in one of the memoir's most affecting sections, describes a car crash in which she was responsible for another woman's death. However, some omitted parts of the story (though probably left out to protect people) leave glaring holes. Early on, for example, she alludes to Alice's being a recovering alcoholic; she never explains the impact this had on their relationship, yet when they break up, she makes the drinking central, declaring that she will stay away from anyone who has had a problem with alcohol. And sometimes she gives in too easily to conventional wisdom—uncritically spouting, for instance, the notion of ``straight privilege'' (that is, the privileges heterosexual women derive from ``being with a successful man''), which many feminists recognize as complicated given the remaining social inequalities between men and women. Though overly elliptical in parts, an admirable memoir of emotional struggle. (Author tour)
Pub Date: April 1, 1997
Page Count: 240
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
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Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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