A largely surface-level study of modern Black communities.

BLACK IN WHITE SPACE

THE ENDURING IMPACT OF COLOR IN EVERYDAY LIFE

A Black scholar uses ethnographic data to describe the plight of Black communities in modern America.

In this analysis of modern Black life, Anderson, a professor of sociology and African American studies at Yale, examines how Black people of various class levels navigate what he calls the “white space” of mainstream America. According to the author, Americans automatically connect Black people with the negative concept of “the ghetto,” regardless of where these individuals actually reside or where they come from. Anderson claims that associating Black folks with poor, crime-ridden communities “has burdened Black people with a negative presumption that they are required to disprove before establishing mutually trusting relationships with others.” As a result, Black American males, especially, are overly policed and underemployed. The author also notes how many Black boys lack father figures, which, the author asserts, contributes to their interest in a life of crime. Writing about how these problems are particularly challenging for “ghetto” families that identify as “street” rather than “decent,” terms the author says were used by his interview subjects, Anderson also argues that the power of the image of the ghetto in the White imagination ensures that even middle-class and upper-class Blacks constantly have to fight for fair treatment and against racism. Although the book purportedly draws on “ethnographic fieldwork” Anderson conducted for his previous work, the author not only fails to describe his methodology; he also goes pages without mentioning a single piece of original data. His analysis is highly descriptive, rather than analytical, and he focuses mostly on individual actions—and, in particular, the actions of Black, able-bodied males—more than the pervasive structural inequalities that plague Black Americans. Many of his points are solid and worthy of further discussion, but they have been more rigorously explored by previous scholars.

A largely surface-level study of modern Black communities.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-226-65723-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

Did you like this book?

more