An enthusiastic, immersive, entertaining guide for both die-hard Batfans and curious onlookers.

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THE CAPED CRUSADE

BATMAN AND THE RISE OF NERD CULTURE

A passionate, precise documentation of Batman’s legacy and enduring popularity among “nerds and normals alike.”

With the same gusto that characterized his debut superhero portrait (Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, 2013), NPR panelist and pop-culture critic Weldon comprehensively charts the nearly 80-year history of Batman through facts, opinions, interviews, visits to Comic-Con, and the obsessions of fans who have helped make the character a household name. Sprawling in scope yet written with breezy flair, the narrative explores Batman’s early beginnings from his comic-book inauguration in 1939, “striking poses” with his billowing cape. A creative collaboration by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, the superhero was an instant hit on the comic circuit and was soon complemented by sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder, in 1940, creating a male-male partnership Weldon waggishly interprets as “factory-installed with subtext both acknowledged and unspoken, subtext that audiences have always read and interpreted in a host of discrete ways.” Initial decades of successful comics, radio shows, and movie serials also brought unexpected criticism involving alleged misogyny and blatant homoeroticism, both briskly cloaked with the 1956 addition of Batwoman and a myriad of effectively distractive nemeses. As Batman’s popularity became more volatile, writes Weldon, image updates and rebirths attempted to both pacify fans and retain the brand’s appeal and longevity throughout evolutionary cycles in the 1980s, ’90s, and into the present. Details on franchise film production snafus and commentary on Batman’s campy gay appeal add further layers of relatability to the story. Interwoven through the narrative is Weldon’s exploration of how the superhero persona has so captivated the devoted nerd community and why this subculture has defensively and protectively venerated the Dark Knight as their own. Weldon, a thoughtful portraitist who introduces many subtexts to his discussion of superhero adoration, cleverly considers Batman “an inkblot; we see in him what we want to—even if we aren’t ready to admit it to ourselves.”

An enthusiastic, immersive, entertaining guide for both die-hard Batfans and curious onlookers.

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5669-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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