A strident but sometimes-illuminating exposé.

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AA

WHO IT HELPS, WHO IT HARMS, WHO IT KILLS, & WHY

An expert on alcohol abuse takes aim at Alcoholics Anonymous.

To a large extent, AA’s 12-step approach to dealing with alcoholism has been widely accepted as standard practice, writes Wilson, the co-founder of a different type of research- and outcome-based alcohol-rehabilitation program. In this debut, he bluntly assails AA for being “either irrelevant or damaging to most people whose lives are affected by the misuse of alcohol.” He further suggests that the program’s steps and slogans “so pervade our culture that most of us have come to believe things that simply aren’t true.” Wilson lays the groundwork for his argument by first debunking the notion that all alcohol abusers should go through the same type of program. According to Wilson, an individualized treatment approach should be based on the person’s “stages of maturation,” which he discusses in some detail. The remainder of the book is a scathing indictment of AA’s treatment approach, in which Wilson cites some startling statistics, such as, “Of all the ways to end alcohol abuse, AA ranks at about 30th in efficacy.” His contention that AA methodology is dangerous is developed in two chapters: “AA – Who It Helps, and Why” and “AA – Who It Kills, and Why.” He straightforwardly expresses his argument by lambasting both AA and the participating “Conformists” who “stay comfortably cocooned in their meetings and self-conferred specialness, self-righteousness, and true-believer status.” Even more acerbic is Wilson’s opinion of the AA culture; he writes that it requires a participant to “surrender every bit of your hard won independence, creativity, intelligence, personal power, and uniqueness for the pseudo-intimacy of conformity to a cult.” He also asserts that one might die while “trying to contort yourself into the one-size-fits-all 12 Step mold.” After such statements, readers won’t be surprised by the book’s conclusion, which advocates for individualized treatment by an alcohol abuse professional. However, Wilson’s intense indignation about AA overwhelms the work, and as a result, the book is one-sided in its criticism and presents no opportunities for opposing viewpoints. Still, the author does provide some recommended reading at the end of the book, which may help readers looking for other points of view.

A strident but sometimes-illuminating exposé.

Pub Date: May 31, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 66

Publisher: Your Empowering Solutions, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2019

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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