A moving and original contribution to an inexhaustible body of literature.

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BURIED RIVERS

A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY INTO THE HOLOCAUST

A spiritual examination focuses on the terrible toll the Holocaust took on its survivors.

Debut author Korman Mains’ parents were both decisively shaped by the horror of the Holocaust. Her mother, Masza Goldblum, was born and raised in Poland, and when the Nazis invaded in 1939, her family was forced into a crowded ghetto—and her brother was summarily shot. The survivors were then sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Goldblum’s mother was gassed. From there, Goldblum was shipped to a concentration camp for women, before being liberated in 1945. The author’s father, Szapsa Korman, avoided imprisonment in the camps, but lost his first wife and much of his family. Korman Mains grew up under the dark specter of her parents’ tormented past—both were generally aloof and somewhat inscrutable. While many wondered how such a tragedy could occur, the author wrestled with the 20th century’s central catastrophe from a different vantage point: Could its victims meaningfully recover? In 1971, she attended a seminar led by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan exile; he introduced her to the therapeutic power of meditation and to a philosophical perspective that helped her begin to divine an answer to this question. She learned that the cosmos is characterized by a “basic goodness,” a moral health, and even the worst transgressions occur within the horizon of this elemental humaneness. The author, armed with years of spiritual practice, traveled to Poland to find healing for herself and maybe some wisdom to share with other Jews about the restoration of this basic goodness. In this poignant account that features family photographs, Korman Mains intelligently discusses the resistance of her family to Buddhist spirituality—for her parents, one’s Jewish identity was nonnegotiable. Therefore, the historical suffering of the Jews must be managed only by loyal Jews. The author recalls: “The irony was that doing nothing to engage with Judaism made me a good Jew simply by default. But searching to understand my own and others’ suffering with the help of Buddhist meditation made me disloyal and a bad Jew.” Her story is a heart-rending one, and provides a fresh take not only on the Holocaust, but also the proper response to the seemingly inerasable stain left by profound anguish. The narrative does tend, though, to meander somewhat shiftlessly—the author reproduces long excerpts from her uncle’s memoir. 

A moving and original contribution to an inexhaustible body of literature.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 318

Publisher: West Lake Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2018

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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