Timely in an era of renewed disenfranchisement and an instructive, important addition to the literature of civil rights.



A young Black activist revisits his father’s role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“How many bubbles are on a bar of soap?” That was a typical Mississippi voting-eligibility question during the late Jim Crow era—impossible to answer but sufficient to deny Black citizens the right to vote. “Wrong answer, no voter registration,” recalls Dennis Sr., who had significant involvement in key historical moments, often at great danger. He came into the movement reluctantly, determined to become an engineer and settle into an ordinary life. Instead, drawn into it at a time of lunch-counter protests and marches for justice, he faced down the violence of police and White supremacists. “I was aware of racial terror, like any Black kid, especially in the South,” he writes. “I sat in the back of buses. I picked cotton for white men who owned the land we sharecropped on. I heard them call me 'boy' and [N-word] and I knew that speaking up would get me and my family killed.” Cultivating friendships with James Baldwin, Fannie Lou Hamer (“a product of everything Mississippi could do to Black folks, especially Black women”), and other leading lights of the movement, Dennis Sr. continued his activism into the 1970s, when, weary (and none too impressed with many clueless White would-be allies), he slipped into despair and drugs, “lost in his own fury,” as his son describes it. Reinvigorated by the example of Robert Moses, he regained his lost idealism in time to see the necessary revival of civil rights activism in a time of retrograde violence and oppression. Writes Dennis Jr., “Growing up with these people taught me that to be Black in America and part of the Movement was to have fought a war on American soil.”

Timely in an era of renewed disenfranchisement and an instructive, important addition to the literature of civil rights.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-301142-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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