An insightful examination of a little-known culture.

READ REVIEW

THE LAST WHALERS

THREE YEARS IN THE FAR PACIFIC WITH AN ANCIENT TRIBE AND A VANISHING WAY OF LIFE

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

more