An important document of the struggles (and triumphs) faced by African-American journalists from the 1960s until today.

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A PIONEERING JOURNALIST'S FIGHT TO MAKE THE MEDIA LOOK MORE LIKE AMERICA

Affecting memoir by an African-American journalism pioneer focused on racial and gender equality.

Retired Washington Post reporter and columnist Gilliam (Paul Robeson: All American, 1976) looks back on her distinguished career, during which she helped spur diversity in the media, beginning in an era when such change seemed nearly impossible. “I saw myself,” she writes, “as one of the new-style, aggressive black Americans moving up in Washington and elsewhere [and] I immediately faced prejudice outside and inside the tension-filled newsroom.” Gilliam (b. 1936) was the first black woman journalist hired at the Post, and though some colleagues reached out, the author amply shows the surreal, hurtful quality of social segregation in the early 1960s. Before that, she experienced Jim Crow during a childhood in Memphis and Louisville; her father’s occupation as a pastor showed her both poverty and an aspiration for knowledge and success. In the book’s most powerful section, Gilliam narrates her experiences covering infamous civil rights flashpoints, including recollections of white supremacist mob violence: “As a Southerner, I knew Mississippi was a land of black death, but I went anyway.” After a hiatus, during which she raised children with the artist Sam Gilliam, she received an offer from Ben Bradlee to come back to the Post, which was then being questioned for its lack of diversity. “As a black person,” she writes, “I had been fighting racial discrimination in the media for more than a decade.” Gilliam remained at the Post until 2013 and then immersed herself in efforts to bring young people of color into the media. The author writes with an acute sense of the historical significance of her career and the changes she witnessed, and she forcefully demonstrates the continuing crisis regarding people of color in mainstream journalism. Only occasionally does the narrative become repetitive or tiresome, but on the whole, the pages turn easily.

An important document of the struggles (and triumphs) faced by African-American journalists from the 1960s until today.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5460-8344-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Center Street/Hachette

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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