Thought-provoking memories of a civil rights–era friendship that crossed racial lines.

MATCHSTICKS

AN EDUCATION IN BLACK AND WHITE

A memoir from “the first white student to receive his diploma at an all-Black college.”

“I was raised at a time when overt racism was practically everywhere,” writes Engh. In 1961, the author was a husband and father working a part-time job, and he had no real ambitions for a future. Then, one day, his mother told him he was a “failure,” sparking Engh to make some changes. He enrolled at Maryland State College (now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore), determined to get a degree in physical education. In this intriguing, entertaining look into the past, the author shares what it was like to become fully aware of the insidious entrenchment of racism in American society. He shares insights into his reeducation via his relationship with his friend Bob Taylor, a Black athlete who helped him on numerous occasions. Taylor’s friendship made Engh realize that shared interests and goals are significant elements in the struggle against prejudice. Interspersed with the primary narrative are sidebar timelines of major events that occurred between 1941 and 2020, which help anchor the author’s personal story in a historical context. Engh’s story, he writes, “is about an education and a friendship, and how anyone can change for the better given the right environment.” Given the “rampant” division that currently plagues our social landscape, the author’s lesson of acceptance and intellectual growth is heartening. Engh went on to found a nonprofit called the National Alliance for Youth Sports, which works to provide rewarding athletic activities for kids regardless of “color or ethnicity.” The author concludes that “racism will only become a thing of the past if we teach future generations not to hate others simply because they are different. We still have a long way to go, but it can be done. My relationship with Bob Taylor is only one example—my example—that shows that it is possible.”

Thought-provoking memories of a civil rights–era friendship that crossed racial lines.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7570-0505-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: SquareOne Publishers

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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