WHO GETS BELIEVED?

WHEN THE TRUTH ISN'T ENOUGH

An unflinching, compelling look at how “calcified hearts believe”—and disbelieve.

The author of The Ungrateful Refugee, a Kirkus Prize finalist, probes the boundary between belief and disbelief.

As she did in her previous book, Nayeri dances smoothly between memoir and the stories of others, drawing on her own formative years as an Iranian seeking—and being granted—asylum in the U.S. but moving beyond the experiences of refugees to explore other circumstances when belief and disbelief collide, often catastrophically: her childhood skepticism of the glossolalists in her mother’s ecstatic church, the interrogation techniques that too often lead the innocent to falsely confess to crimes, her McKinsey training in the cultivation of trust in her clients, staged Soviet films of survivors of Nazi mass shootings, and her refusal to accept her partner's brother’s mental illness. The author braids the story of a Sri Lankan torture survivor seeking asylum in the U.K. throughout the narrative as well as inevitable references to Kafka, their effectiveness unblunted by familiarity. Nayeri draws on both the work of organizations such as the Innocence Project and Great Britain’s Freedom From Torture and the writings of thinkers including Blaise Pascal, Jacques Derrida, Susan Sontag, and, most extensively, Simone Weil. She ranges from her own uncertain faith to the cruelty of a culture that insists on “misfits and oddballs and quirky people” in works of fiction but strict conformity to a predetermined performance of credibility in the real world. Nayeri writes elegantly but a little claustrophobically. Readers spend a great deal of time with the author, her partner, their daughter, and the friends who sheltered through Covid-19 lockdown with them in a small town in Provence. She grapples with epistemology and with her partner’s acute distress at his brother’s illness, juxtaposing her private anguish with her examination of the suffering of others.

An unflinching, compelling look at how “calcified hearts believe”—and disbelieve.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781646220724

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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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