An incisive, nuanced inquiry into gender and body.

HEAVEN

A searing, deeply personal story about the author’s emotional journey of self-discovery.

“This is the question of my body and my story about it: is it just mine?” So writes Whitney (Creative Writing/Goddard Coll.; Ghost Box, 2014) early on in the narrative, which is fragmented, elliptical, and consistently provocative. The author tells their story in three parts, each beautifully poised and composed of brief paragraphs, some only one short sentence. Piecemeal, like snapshots, Whitney slowly reveals an early life of uncertainty, pain, and suffering: “I grew up knowing fear as an inheritance of femininity.” The story washes back and forth in time as the author reflects on their sexuality and family: Mom and Hank, two brothers, Tye and Gunnar; and Grammy. Along the way, Whitney interjects bits of literature and psychology, wisdom gleaned from a variety of sources, including Freud, Lacan, Allen Ginsberg, Johanna Hedva, Robert J. Stoller, Luce Irigaray, and Eli Clare. Mom is the key to this story. “As a kid,” writes Whitney, “I was a flame in the corner lighting up all of Mom’s mistakes.” Chronicling their mother’s drinking, being physically abused, splitting with her husband, and moving around as she tried to raise her family, Whitney does a fine job uncovering their complex relationship. “This book,” they write, “isn’t about individuation or even coming of age…it’s about ways to find a response, to respond to her.” About Grammy, the author writes, “I love this woman for throwing me into deep water….My heritage is her hopefulness and the complexity of a body that looks, in parts, like hers.” The author recounts adolescent years filled with questions, fears, drinking, drugs, cutting, boys, girls, and homelessness—as well as a bad reaction to testosterone. Upon meeting other trans kids, writes Whitney, “I was the happiest around them I’d ever been.” In 2011, the author underwent breast removal surgery: “I’ve edited my body, mixed my skin around with some money.”

An incisive, nuanced inquiry into gender and body. 

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-944211-76-9

Page Count: 200

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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