Next book

A DARKER WILDERNESS

BLACK NATURE WRITING FROM SOIL TO STARS

A well-curated assemblage of Black voices that draws profound connections among family, nature, aspiration, and loss.

A unique collection of nature writing focused on Black experience and memory.

This book is a response to the absence of Black literature about attachment to the American landscape, a multigenerational dwelling place that is both internal and external. An abundance of relevant themes emerge: home as refuge, seeking freedom amid social oppression, gardens as healers, and the complex history of Black landownership. Opening with an irony that casts its shadow on the pages that follow, Sharkey describes a youthful photo of her mother “kneeling by a pond on a twelve-acre property in New York that she and my father will never own, but that will become their legacy.” Attachment does not equal possession, and Sharkey’s own quest for “home” becomes all-consuming, extending to the realm of nature writing that “has been dominated by white, cisgender men with access to resources,” from Thoreau to Audubon, Abbey to Pollan. These essays hit from refreshingly different angles. Birder Sean Hill juxtaposes his life to that of Austin Dabney, a Revolutionary War soldier rewarded with land grants and freedom (at least from slavery). Alexis Pauline Gumbs connects her life to that of “Black feminist speculative nature poet” Audre Lorde. The more academic essays are the fruit of archival research, though Sharkey reminds us to be attuned to “the racist structures in place in the institutions of memory.” Lauret Savoy provides ample illustrations of American place names that are “not innocent, passive, or neutral.” Similar in approach and spirit to Tiya Miles’ All That She Carried, these selections are written in response to artifacts, with the exception of Ronald L. Greer’s “Magic Alley,” which lyrically depicts the beauty and horrors of a Detroit neighborhood through the eyes of a child, a place where “the people who used the powdery substance alchemically transformed it to a liquid, then used a needle to escape to another dimension.”

A well-curated assemblage of Black voices that draws profound connections among family, nature, aspiration, and loss.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9781571313904

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Next book

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Next book

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Close Quickview