An insightful examination of a little-known culture.



Journalist Clark's carefully researched and often dramatic first book follows the residents of a small village on a remote Indonesian island as they engage in the tradition of hunting whales and adjust to the incursions of the outside world.

Over the course of three years, the author, a two-time Fulbright recipient, spent months at a time on the island of Lembata with the Lamalerans, a group of hunter-gatherers. Of the 1,500 members of the tribe, 300 are dedicated to hunting sperm whales as well as other marine mammals and fish. Scrupulously leaving himself out of the narrative, Clark focuses on a few individuals to tell the story of the group. Chief among them are two young men who aspire to become harpoonists, the most prestigious—and dangerous—position on the whaling boat. Jon, raised by his grandparents after his parents abandoned him, struggles to find a place in a society that scorns him. Ben, an expert harpooner and boatmaker, finds himself drawn by the attractions of life outside the island. The author also closely follows Ben’s father, Ignatius, and other older builders and masters of the long rowboats whose construction, unchanged for generations, is guided by the “Ways of the Ancestors.” Clark pays less attention to the women of the group, many of whom are sent away to be educated and work elsewhere in Indonesia, sometimes returning to care for elderly family members, though he does devote space to the daily life of Jon's sister Ika, who wants to marry a young man from another tribe. In between the stories of the individuals, the author chronicles the history of the group and the ceremonies he attended in a society that meshes Catholic faith and animistic religion. Perhaps surprisingly, among the chief villains of the narrative are the World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy, which promote whale-watching rather than whale-killing. The author argues that sperm whales are less endangered than the Lamaleran society.

An insightful examination of a little-known culture.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-39062-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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