THE ``SEX SIDE OF LIFE''

MARY WARE DENNETT'S PIONEERING BATTLE FOR BIRTH CONTROL AND SEX EDUCATION

This first book by a founding editor of Men's Journal is an impressively researched biography of an undersung leader in the American birth control movement. Mary Ware Dennett was at the forefront of several reform movements of the early 20th century, including the suffragist movement and feminism. Unlike her rival birth control activist, Margaret Sanger, who courted publicity shamelessly, Dennett is not well known; this is the first biography of her. Dennett's dedication to sex education and birth control evolved out of her own experience. Suffering serious physical consequences form the births of three children, Dennett was advised by doctors not to have any more, yet they never mentioned contraception; Dennett and her husband stopped having sex altogether. Her husband fell in love with another woman; their custody battle and divorce trial were widely publicized. Devastated by the breakup of her family, Dennett threw herself into suffrage work. In 1915, unable to find for her sons material on sexuality that was neither moralizing nor overly clinical, she wrote a pamphlet called ``The Sex Side of Life: An Explanation for Young People.'' This short work became quite popular and was distributed even by the conservative YMCA. But it led to Dennett's conviction in a celebrated 1929 trial after the pamphlet was seized under the Comstock laws. Chen explores Dennett's emotional and political lives with equal care, quoting liberally from revealing correspondence, such as love letters between Dennett and her husband. Unfortunately, though, Chen pushes her own moral agenda as heavy-handedly as any early 20th century reformer. Writing, for example, about the Dennetts' marital problems, Chen charges, ``After a few generations, such dissolution of the family could only mean the ultimate disintegration of civilized life.'' Despite her gracelessly wielded value judgments, Chen has made a strong contribution to the history of birth control, feminism, and sexual mores. (25 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: June 13, 1996

ISBN: 1-56584-132-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more