There’s an unfortunate cringe factor in some sloppy prose (“She likes long walks in the park and vanilla cookie-dough...

COLONIZE THIS!

YOUNG WOMEN OF COLOR ON TODAY’S FEMINISM

An uneven mix of essays from third-wave feminists of color.

“What is it about the word ‘feminism’ that has encouraged women of color to stand apart from it?” queries one contributor. Feeling that the topic of race has been given short shrift in women’s studies (and, conversely, that the study of gender is ignored in ethnic studies), these young essayists tackle the ways in which race, class, and gender intersect and define their lives. Their voices are distinct (the writers identify as Puerto Rican, Mexican-American, Nigerian, and Sri Lankan, among other ethnicities), and the pieces cover a wide territory. Taigi Smith offers a wry look at neighborhood regentrification: she resents the practice on her childhood block in San Francisco’s Mission District, but is grateful that her current Brooklyn neighborhood is undergoing the process. Activist Stella Luna describes how her HIV-positive status helped transform her from a directionless young woman into a health-care advocate. (When asked if she would choose to be cured or to retain the strength, compassion, and empowerment she’s acquired since being diagnosed with the disease, Luna admits she would chose to remain as she is.) Most of the essayists agree that the personal is political; hence the tales of eating disorders, sexual harassment, rape, and abortion. The two strongest sections focus on the inclination of these young women to see their mothers as practicing feminists—even though their mothers might reject the label—and on the process of negotiating traditions. These women construct a different feminism, one that allows them to retain their culture and customs, as well as question traditional gender roles.

There’s an unfortunate cringe factor in some sloppy prose (“She likes long walks in the park and vanilla cookie-dough ice-cream from Häagen-Dazs and gets exhilarated from tap-dancing at fast speeds”), but trenchant perspectives are sprinkled throughout.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-58005-067-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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