To be read, as the author suggests, like a dream: Garner what you can, and hopefully something new will unfurl in your mind.

THE DÉJÀ VU

BLACK DREAMS & BLACK TIME

An exuberant collection of texts and artifacts by a Black feminist performance artist.

In a disarmingly candid postscript, Civil, who teaches creative writing at CalArts, discusses her decision not to use a capital B for the word black when referring to race. Though she understands the impetus and values the gesture, "the déjà vu is my book…an attempt to reflect my voice, my inner life, and something about my time….I reserve the right to make different choices myself (even within the span of this text). I’m down for lowercase blackness, capital Blackness, all caps BLACKNESS, wild-style bLaCkNeSs, nourbeSe-N b l a c k N e s s, and other combinations." An unwavering commitment to upholding a unique personal aesthetic while exploring black dreams is the driving force behind this unusual book, a kind of archive or scrapbook of performance pieces, scripts, poems, conversations, collaborations, lectures, and essays. As in the postscript, the narrative touches at many points on the tensions created by recent changes in the way we use and interpret language. One standout piece, "Blue Flag," is a palindrome essay that unpacks the convoluted story of Civil's being asked to write an introduction to a reissue of Wanda Coleman’s 1977 chapbook, Art in the Court of the Blue Fag. Throughout the book, Civil also provides inspiring instructions and DIY rituals for readers. For example, she shares the advice of a friend who was trying to help her cut through indecision about taking an academic position. He told her to repeat to herself, "I’m Gabrielle Civil. Now start acting like it." To readers, the author suggests, "Switch out my name for yours, then repeat it. I’m ____________. Now start acting like it. See what happens. A speech act and a spell."

To be read, as the author suggests, like a dream: Garner what you can, and hopefully something new will unfurl in your mind.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-56689-622-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Everything about Sabathia is larger than life, yet he tells his story with honesty and humility.

TILL THE END

One of the best pitchers of his generation—and often the only Black man on his team—shares an extraordinary life in baseball.

A high school star in several sports, Sabathia was being furiously recruited by both colleges and professional teams when the death of his grandmother, whose Social Security checks supported the family, meant that he couldn't go to college even with a full scholarship. He recounts how he learned he had been drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the first round over the PA system at his high school. In 2001, after three seasons in the minor leagues, Sabathia became the youngest player in MLB (age 20). His career took off from there, and in 2008, he signed with the New York Yankees for seven years and $161 million, at the time the largest contract ever for a pitcher. With the help of Vanity Fair contributor Smith, Sabathia tells the entertaining story of his 19 seasons on and off the field. The first 14 ran in tandem with a poorly hidden alcohol problem and a propensity for destructive bar brawls. His high school sweetheart, Amber, who became his wife and the mother of his children, did her best to help him manage his repressed fury and grief about the deaths of two beloved cousins and his father, but Sabathia pursued drinking with the same "till the end" mentality as everything else. Finally, a series of disasters led to a month of rehab in 2015. Leading a sober life was necessary, but it did not tame Sabathia's trademark feistiness. He continued to fiercely rile his opponents and foment the fighting spirit in his teammates until debilitating injuries to his knees and pitching arm led to his retirement in 2019. This book represents an excellent launching point for Jay-Z’s new imprint, Roc Lit 101.

Everything about Sabathia is larger than life, yet he tells his story with honesty and humility.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13375-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Roc Lit 101

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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