A witty polemic with significant contemporary value.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS

A noted Australian feminist writer, activist, and “troll agitator” offers her take on the culture of toxic masculinity.

In her latest, Ford (Fight Like a Girl, 2018) analyzes patriarchy and, in particular, “how the systems we live in allow men to get away with doing deeply shitty things.” She begins by examining the behaviors that “codify male power and dominance…[and] secure protection” from the consequences of those behaviors. She traces the genesis of toxic masculinity to the cultural penchant for forcing young boys to accept the rigid ways of being that disallow them to express emotions or preferences for “girlish” things like dresses and dolls. The more boys see the males and females around them assuming equal roles in both the private and public spheres, the less likely they will feel entitled to tell women their place is at home taking care of men. The fewer stories they see in books, film, and online that “reinforce regressive stereotypes,” the less chance boys will develop the inflated sense of social entitlement Ford sees as being at the heart of toxic masculinity. She argues that rather than glorify male violence, society must teach boys the importance of communicating with and respecting the vulnerability in each other and in women. Ford also considers the online “manosphere” backlash against female empowerment, which includes men’s rights activism that sees feminism as a “social cancer.” The author then delves into the various frightening manifestations of rape culture. Normalized through the sanction of powerful men like Donald Trump, it paints women as provocateurs responsible for all acts of male sexual aggression they might suffer. Ford’s book, which draws on current events in Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. as well as her own life as a wife and mother of a son, launches yet another furious and necessary salvo at the gender status quo while offering a blueprint for a more enlightened world.

A witty polemic with significant contemporary value.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78607-663-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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