Overall, she has produced a well-organized work of thoughtful popular history that displays considerable wit and verve, and...

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WHAT IS MARRIAGE FOR?

Why wed? As a financial investment? To have sex? To reproduce the species? To link two families together? This highly informative and enjoyable romp through the history of marriage in Western Europe and the United States looks at all these reasons and more.

Graff, a Boston-based journalist who has written for such diverse publications as the New York Times, Ms., and Out, has organized her book into six thematic chapters, entitled “Money,” “Sex,” “Babies,” “Kin,” “Order,” and “Heart.” Her progression is telling, for part of Graff’s story concerns the long evolution of marriage from an investment in property (including the bride’s womb) and security to what she refers to as the “compassionate marriage.” A second major theme is the growth of women’s rights, both in the decision to wed another—the Roman wedding ceremony usually involved an exchange of statements between the groom and his father-in-law—and, far more recently, in terms of property and custody of children in case of divorce. Tracing three broad religious perspectives, Graff, perhaps somewhat simplistically, notes the premodern Catholic antimarriage focus on celibacy, the early Protestant celebration of marriage, provided it involved “reproduction,” and the distinctly modern Jewish emphasis on “refreshment” (promarriage and prosex for the purpose of happiness and intimacy). She occasionally digresses a bit too long from her main themes, as when discussing the 19th-century Mormon practice of polygamy. While she has done a great deal of research, she covers so much religion and social and legal history that, inevitably, she cites some dubious statistics ("roughly 20 percent of adult women report having been sexually abused as children") and occasionally simplifies a religious law or historical practice. Graff also argues persuasively, if too repetitively, for the validity of gay and lesbian marriage.

Overall, she has produced a well-organized work of thoughtful popular history that displays considerable wit and verve, and that is in equal measure instructive and entertaining.

Pub Date: June 28, 1999

ISBN: 0-8070-4114-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1999

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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