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PEOPLE LOVE DEAD JEWS

REPORTS FROM A HAUNTED PRESENT

A riveting, radical, essential revision of the stories we all know—and some we don't.

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A guided tour of the hypocrisy that serves as the mechanism by which antisemitism rages on unchecked.

The cold fury and in-your-face phrasing of the title of acclaimed novelist Horn's essay collection sets the tone for this brilliantly readable yet purposefully disturbing book. In the first chapter, "Everyone's (Second) Favorite Dead Jew"—presumably Jesus Christ is No. 1—Horn looks at Anne Frank, who the author believes would never have been so beloved had she survived. At the heart of Frank's myth is a passage from her diary that reads, "I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." As Horn points out, Frank was less than a month from meeting people who surely convinced her that she was wrong. The author ranges widely: the mythology of Ellis Island; the marketing of the Jewish history of Harbin, China (why call it "Property Seized from Dead or Expelled Jews" when you can call it a "Jewish Heritage Site”?); and the problematic elements of Holocaust museums and exhibits. Since these museums have not stopped people hating or killing Jews, wonders the author, what is the point of recalling the operation of the genocide at a “granular” level? Readers will be enthralled throughout by the fierce logic of Horn's arguments, novelty of research, black humor, and sharp phrasing. Particularly affecting is "Commuting With Shylock," in which Horn describes how she listened to an audio version of The Merchant of Venice with her precocious 10-year-old son, stopping frequently to explain key points. His clarity about the meaning of the "prick us, do we not bleed" speech is a revelation. Though Horn briefly mentions Zionism as a key aspect of Jewish heritage, one subject not discussed here is how the complex situation in the Middle East—characterized by dead Jews and dead Palestinians—fits into her analysis.

A riveting, radical, essential revision of the stories we all know—and some we don't.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-393-53156-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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