A book that might prove useful to fellow gen-Xers who find themselves outside geek culture or those who have resisted the...

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I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING

STAR WARS AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE

In defense of our new geek overlords.

Rather than offering a superfan’s love letter to Lucasfilm, Jameson (99 Things to Do When You Have the Time, 2013, etc.) takes aim at the larger trends in entertainment media that Star Wars initiated. Geek art, whether involving sci-fi, fantasy, and/or superheroes, constitutes both a mindset and an aesthetic approach: the creation and consumption of imaginary new worlds with consistent internal logics. The author’s mission is not simply to tell the story of how a series of “geek milestones”—like The Matrix or the liberation of superheroes from the dustbin of 1960s comics—transformed once-isolated interests into mainstream blockbusters. He wants us to stop scoffing at video games, sci-fi novels, comic books, collectible figurines, gamer culture, and superhero movies and to re-evaluate them as legitimate, complex, uplifting, and profound art forms (with the corollary that we also hail the rise of nerdcentric movies as the latest generation of great American cinema). Jameson takes umbrage at decades of uptight movie reviewers who have dismissed the undeniable popularity of Star Wars, especially those who accused George Lucas of irrevocably skewing the entire film industry toward such childish pleasures as outlandish storylines and happy endings. The author rejects the dichotomy between realism and fantasy, arguing that Lucas showed how the exploits of aliens in a far-flung galaxy can be just as detailed and realistic as the grittiest new Hollywood flick. Jameson rhapsodizes about his analog adolescence and the uphill-both-ways struggle that was pre-internet geekdom, but his college essay–level arguments won’t win over those who sneer at the latest Marvel miniseries or balk at adult board games. Indeed, the book would probably most appeal to the group for which it is not written—i.e., his fellow fanatics, who probably know this stuff already but can never get enough.

A book that might prove useful to fellow gen-Xers who find themselves outside geek culture or those who have resisted the force of fantasy all these years but who now wish to learn what all the phantom menace is about.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-53736-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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