Superior reporting, fine writing: required reading for civil-rights activists.

READ REVIEW

CIVIL WARS

A BATTLE FOR GAY MARRIAGE

A superb account of one deeply divisive battle in the decades-long civil-rights struggle, recounted by the Pulitzer Prize–winning editorialist who covered it on the front lines.

San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, murdered in office in 1978, once “urged gays and lesbians across America to stand up openly, with dignity and pride,” writes Moats, editorial-page editor of the Rutland (Vt.) Herald. “They would provoke bigotry, of course, but in doing so they would expose bigotry to the light, touching the conscience of their neighbors in a surprising and gratifying way.” So it was when Vermonters responded to a State Supreme Court ruling that state laws excluding gay and lesbian citizens from marriage were unconstitutional: some Vermonters welcomed the decision, others viewed it as an abomination. “The issue of gay marriage was about more than marriage,” Moats observes. “It was about how far a secular democracy would expand its arena of freedom.” Opponents of gay marriage on religious grounds insisted that marriage was in fact the only issue, protesting that while they had nothing personal against gays, the Bible said otherwise; such types, including protestors from outside the state, soon became familiar figures at rallies throughout the state, besieging legislators with demands to craft laws that would withstand judicial tinkering. Yet, in time, those opponents found that would-be allies were more tolerant than they; one crusty, flinty Republican, former governor and US Senator Robert Stafford, held a press conference to announce, “I believe that love is one of the great forces in our society and in the state of Vermont. . . . And even if a same-sex couple unites with true love, what is the harm in that. What is the harm?” Eventually, Moats writes, Vermont legislators offered a watered-down compromise authorizing civil union, but not marriage as such, and thus far that compromise has held. But perhaps not for much longer, Moats closes by observing: the Court of Appeal in nearby Ontario ruled in 2003 against restrictions on same-sex marriage, which may inspire a renewal of the struggle in Vermont and elsewhere in the US.

Superior reporting, fine writing: required reading for civil-rights activists.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-15-101017-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more