Part memoir, part rebel yell of a love letter to idiosyncratic young Black men trying to find their ways in the world.

BOYZ N THE VOID

A MIXTAPE TO MY BROTHER

A Black millennial shares life lessons with his younger brother through the lens of punk rock.

Asim, a writer, musician, professor of nonfiction writing, and punk aficionado, feels a kinship with his younger brother Gyasi, in part because they are both “difficult,” and that “natural recalcitrance is the seed of punk sensibility.” The author, who has never viewed his embrace of punk as antithetical to his Blackness, addresses his 10-chapter narrative to Gyasi, an intelligent, artistic teen on the cusp of college who “predominantly lurks indoors like some Wi-Fi–empowered Boo Radley.” Asim writes to Gyasi in hopes that “a robust engagement with counterculture can serve as a vital antidote to soul-sucking normalcy.” The author’s mixtape is “part Nick Hornsby, part Ntozake Shange: my All-Time, Top-10 Angst-Neutralizing Punk Songs Because the Rainbow Clearly Isn’t Enuf, Bruh.” The product of “a poor, Black, bohemian family of quixotic values” in a “hyperliterate household,” Asim delivers erudite prose that will appeal to readers across generations who want a fresh lens through which to consider a range of topics, including mental wellness, childhood sexual abuse, masculinity and male feminism, sex and sexuality, racism, and respectability politics. Asim also considers the relationship between punk and Afrofuturism, another conduit for “critical examination of dreary, unquestioned norms.” Whether he’s discussing Black Lives Matter or the influential all-Black punk band Bad Brains, whose “lasting cultural resonance cannot be dismissed,” Asim’s astute social commentary, poignant storytelling, wit, and solid music criticism will appeal to punk and nonpunk readers alike. Here, the punk scene is no panacea, and Asim offers critique alongside celebration. Overall, his message to Gyasi is frank and hopeful: “I urgently want you to know that the living here can be good even if it’s never easy.”

Part memoir, part rebel yell of a love letter to idiosyncratic young Black men trying to find their ways in the world.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8070-5948-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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