It’s good to sound the alarm, but having a plan to go with it would be welcome.

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THE END OF SEX

HOW HOOKUP CULTURE IS LEAVING A GENERATION UNHAPPY, SEXUALLY UNFULFILLED, AND CONFUSED ABOUT INTIMACY

“The digital generation” would perhaps be surprised to learn that the cultural mores around sexual relationships have an ebb and flow to them—that “hookup culture,” as it’s commonly referred to now, is similar to the way things were back in the 1960s.

The difference can be found in the underlying motivations. While the ’60s were about breaking the shackles of a conservative society, the current wave of promiscuity seems to be a factor of boredom, of not having a template for what a “relationship” means, and of the barriers around pornography dropping as the Internet grows. Freitas (Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses, 2008, etc.) explores her experiences with college students who, she suggests, are fed up with the emptiness and trivialization of the hookup culture. Pornography has gone from an illicit pleasure to something more akin to “research,” and the constant access afforded to the always-connected youth has resulted in a sort of expectation that the roles in pornography are the roles males and females should play if they want to fit in. Freitas examines the dogged persistence of the boys-will-be-boys stereotype that starts at an early age and is reinforced throughout childhood and adolescence; the stigma of college virginity; and the informality and “relaxed” nature of hookup culture, as opposed to the formal dinner-and-a-movie first date (or any date). She questions the role of the HBO show Girls, with its portrayals of the sex lives of women as sources of boredom and depression—is the show simply mirroring culture, or is it also reinforcing it? Freitas poses more questions than she answers, and the “practical guide” of ways to affect change only amounts to a scant few pages in an appendix, with little attention to the role of technology and the narcissism perpetuated by social networking.

It’s good to sound the alarm, but having a plan to go with it would be welcome.

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0465002153

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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