NEW KINGS OF THE WORLD

DISPATCHES FROM BOLLYWOOD, DIZI, AND K-POP

Witty and packed with detail, this is an intercultural shot that should be heard around the world.

A probing look at some of the shifting tides of global culture.

Having borne witness to the throes of political upheaval in her birth country of Pakistan, journalist and novelist Bhutto (The Runaways, 2018, etc.) here explores the local roots and global impact of three contemporary pop-culture game-changers: Bollywood (India), dizi (Turkey), and K-pop (South Korea). Many American readers may be surprised to learn that what’s entertaining much of the rest of the world no longer hails from Hollywood or New York but rather India, Turkey, and South Korea. In this engaging study, the author convincingly asserts that American dominance of popular culture was “facilitated by massive migration to urban areas, the rise of the middle class across the Global South, and increased connectivity”—not to mention “American military might.” Though American pop culture may have resonated with “a Third World elite,” Bhutto argues that “villagers uprooted from their homes and cultures and living in the crowded outskirts of big cities took no comfort in Sex and the City or the twangy music of Britney Spears. Instead, they turned to the products of Indian, Turkish, and Korean pop culture, whose more conservative values better aligned with “this majority’s self-image and aspirations.” Such vast, rapid urbanization, writes the author, marks a “journey from tradition to modernity…accompanied by profound turbulence” and resulting in “a geography without anchors, full of sexual and material deprivations, injustices, and inequalities.” In the wake of such global sea changes, Bhutto investigates where millions today find their cultural moorings and why. Though focusing extensively on Bollywood’s politically rooted narrative transformations and the meteoric rise of its biggest star, Shah Rukh Khan, the author also traces and analyzes the appeal of dizi—sweeping, two-plus–hour soap opera–like TV epics often adapted from Turkish literary classics—and concludes with a fascinating look at K-pop’s highly stylized production and enormous Western influence.

Witty and packed with detail, this is an intercultural shot that should be heard around the world.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73362-370-4

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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.”

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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

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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