These line drawings create a spirited monument to a rocky era in American history.


The Sixties in Black and White


A debut book offers a collection of drawings from the artist’s time working at various magazines.

This collection begins with a four-page interview between Stevens and her daughter, Laura Schleussner, which reveals the artist/writer’s motivations and insights. Stevens lived in New York City in the early 1960s, working toward a Ph.D. in literature at Columbia University. She drew primarily for the magazines Challenge, the New Leader, and the National Review. This volume includes images depicting turbulent moments in U.S. history, like President John F. Kennedy’s funeral (1963) and the riots following the enrollment of the University of Mississippi’s first black student, James Meredith (1962). Stevens moved to Washington, D.C., in 1965, where she began writing for the Washington Post, eventually transitioning from artist to full-time writer. Following the interview are over 70 black-and-white illustrations—including a removable poster—featuring New Orleans jazz musicians, rural Mississippi and West Texas, industrial America, and striking unions. After the illustrations comes an article called “Death in the Mines” that Stevens wrote about the 1963 Dola, West Virginia, mining disaster for the New Leader. The article shows her artwork as it appeared alongside her grim reportage on the methane gas explosion, which implicated the Clinchfield Coal Company in the deaths of 22 men. Stevens’ collection should be of great interest to those not only fascinated by the 1960s, but also by the story of a woman who “did not want to be a sheltered housewife, like most of my friends from my class at Wellesley.” In the clarity of her voice in the interview, she portrays the struggle of succeeding in an era when most women were expected to toil as secretaries. She learned: “It isn’t enough to be rich. It isn’t enough to be famous. You have to know. You have to understand...and that can be a very hard lesson.” Stevens’ pen line of choice is bold, outlining building facades and strikers’ portraits alike. Most effective are the pieces textured by thinner lines, which lend them an iconic, stamplike quality.

These line drawings create a spirited monument to a rocky era in American history. 

Pub Date: May 24, 2016


Page Count: 15

Publisher: Goss Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


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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