A vital book for any library or classroom—and for foot soldiers in the fight for racial justice.

A BLACK WOMEN'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A compact, exceptionally diverse introduction to the history of black women in America, rooted in “everyday heroism.”

As Berry (History/Univ. of Texas; The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, From Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation, 2017, etc.) and Gross (History/Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick; Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex and Violence in America, 2016, etc.) persuasively argue, black women have “significantly shaped” our nation—and fought for their rights—throughout every period of American history. Yet their contributions often have been overlooked or underappreciated. In the latest book in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series, the authors offer a selective but wide-ranging search-and-rescue mission for black female activists, trailblazers, and others who have left a mark. In the first chapter, they introduce Isabel de Olvera, who became one of the first black women to set foot on what is now American soil after joining an expedition from Mexico in the early 17th century. From there, Berry and Gross proceed chronologically, opening each chapter with a vignette about a signal figure such as Shirley Chisholm, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants who became the first black female member of Congress. Along the way, the authors frequently discuss members of traditionally underrepresented groups, among them the lesbian blues singer Gladys Bentley and the conjoined twins Millie and Christine McKoy, whose exploitation by mid-19th-century showmen suggests the perils faced by black women with disabilities. The result is a narrative that highlights both setbacks and achievements in many spheres—sports, business, education, the arts, military service, and more. While their overall approach is celebratory, Berry and Gross also deal frankly with morally complex topics, such as women who committed infanticide rather than see a child enslaved. Amid their gains, black women face enduring challenges that include police brutality and other forms of “misogynoir,” or “gendered, anti-Black violence.” For anyone hoping to topple the remaining barriers, this book is a font of inspiration.

A vital book for any library or classroom—and for foot soldiers in the fight for racial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8070-3355-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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