An enlightening account of the burdens facing both the abused and the people coming to their aid.

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DEAD DOG ROAD

A TRUE STORY

A counselor recounts her time running a Texas children’s home, focusing on one case involving three Russian children.

After earning a master’s degree in counseling, debut author Black took a job at a center for abused children. Seeing firsthand the dilapidated state of the facility, she decided to open her own home. The Roosevelt House, finally realized in 2008, was a chance to help numerous children in need of care. But the author’s life took an unexpected turn, starting with a simple request from Child Protective Services to perform a psychosocial evaluation on a father and his adopted children in a nearby town. At the time, there were abuse claims against the man’s wife. But the oldest of the three kids, 12-year-old Alexey, who asserted the woman regularly abused him, was contradicted by the husband and the boy’s younger sisters, Anastasia and Svetlana. The father was initially happy for Alexey, a habitual runaway, to stay at the Roosevelt House but changed his mind after believing he would have to pay child support. So began a relentless struggle by the author to get Alexey, and later the girls, out of the couple’s house—especially demanding, as CPS concluded no abuse had been taking place. Black’s straightforward prose is effective, clearly presenting her perspective: She firmly believed the parents were abusive but received no assistance from CPS or even law enforcement. Still, some of the literal imagery doubles as potent metaphors. For example, the author spotted a barbed-wire fence before checking on the three children, who had just run away from home, and dubbed the father, with a trash bag of Alexey’s belongings over his shoulder, a “bizarre Santa.” The abuse, as described by the kids, is disturbing. But the illuminating story is frequently uplifting, as neither Black nor Alexey surrenders, and occasionally comical: The boy believed that stonewashed, holey jeans at a clothing store were definitely used.

An enlightening account of the burdens facing both the abused and the people coming to their aid.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 269

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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