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THE HILL

A personal, informative portrayal of a unique New York community.

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Debut author Schafer presents a memoir of time spent with New York City’s homeless.

On Thanksgiving evening in 1990, a reproduction of a Lakota tepee went up among a homeless encampment near the Manhattan Bridge. The encampment was known as The Hill. Those who put up the structure were, however, not the typical residents. The author and her partner, Nick Fracaro, had decided to set up their tepee as a way to commemorate the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. The event eventually took on a life of its own. Not only did the tent remain standing, it became a gateway for getting to know the community of The Hill. Although the couple kept their apartment in Brooklyn, they wound up spending a lot of time among the locals. The Hill was home to heroin addicts, drunks, and formerly incarcerated people. Of course these were also people with families, pasts, and stories to tell. As the author states, “Generally, The Hill is a sad place.” This was often due to the fact that the “need for drug-money is all-powerful.” Still, high school students, tourists, and the media came to visit. It all comes to life in this collection of journal entries, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other miscellanea. Rather than provide an overarching statement on homelessness, the book lets the author’s experiences speak for themselves—a powerful statement that doesn’t force an agenda. From Juan, a pushover crack addict, to Mr. Lee, who diligently tends to his own shack, the individuals are as unique as they are tragic. For those on the Hill with nowhere else to go, “There is no option like ‘giving up,’ only completing one’s destiny.” The reader comes to understand how “the future is not a concept on The Hill. Anything beyond today is a mystery.” Some entries, such as the author’s attempts to secure grant funding, are, naturally, not quite as interesting. Nevertheless, the material forms a highly readable firsthand account that is neither overly sentimental nor dismissive. The work features sketches by the author, usually portraits of residents of the Hill, and includes no-frills photos by Morton and Sterzing.

A personal, informative portrayal of a unique New York community.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-57027-384-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Autonomedia

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A JEW

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

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Two bestselling authors engage in an enlightening back-and-forth about Jewishness and antisemitism.

Acho, author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, and Tishby, author of Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, discuss many of the searing issues for Jews today, delving into whether Jewishness is a religion, culture, ethnicity, or community—or all of the above. As Tishby points out, unlike in Christianity, one can be comfortably atheist and still be considered a Jew. She defines Judaism as a “big tent” religion with four main elements: religion, peoplehood, nationhood, and the idea of tikkun olam (“repairing the world through our actions”). She addresses candidly the hurtful stereotypes about Jews (that they are rich and powerful) that Acho grew up with in Dallas and how Jews internalize these antisemitic judgments. Moreover, Tishby notes, “it is literally impossible to be Jewish and not have any connection with Israel, and I’m not talking about borders or a dot on the map. Judaism…is an indigenous religion.” Acho wonders if one can legitimately criticize “Jewish people and their ideologies” without being antisemitic, and Tishby offers ways to check whether one’s criticism of Jews or Zionism is antisemitic or factually straightforward. The authors also touch on the deteriorating relationship between Black and Jewish Americans, despite their historically close alliance during the civil rights era. “As long as Jewish people get to benefit from appearing white while Black people have to suffer for being Black, there will always be resentment,” notes Acho. “Because the same thing that grants you all access—your skin color—is what grants us pain and punishment in perpetuity.” Finally, the authors underscore the importance of being mutual allies, and they conclude with helpful indexes on vernacular terms and customs.

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668057858

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Element

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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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

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