Provocative, illuminating, and consistently entertaining.




The unexpected and underappreciated history of sex toys.

Years before sex expert Lieberman earned her doctorate in “Sex Toy History,” she invested in her first vibrator, and it became “love at first buzz.” She went on to participate in adult novelty parties while living in Texas, where the sale or promotion of sexual stimulators was considered legally obscene (things have changed since). The historically regressive nature of the availability and use of sex toys forms the thrust of the book, and the author’s vast knowledge of sex, eroticism, and the art of self-pleasure is on vibrant display. Lieberman describes ancient “phallic batons” in use as far back as 40,000 B.C.E. Though the information is readily available, she notes, there remains no definitive answers on the true origins and usages of sex toys, primarily because their history is shrouded in “male fear,” patriarchal regulation of women’s bodies, and shame. While Japanese societies celebrate the sex toy, the author encountered difficulty in tracing the tabooed subject matter within American culture until, tucked away in the archives of museums, libraries, and vintage catalogs, she discovered dilators, ticklers, and vibrators and their assorted histories as sexual apparatuses disguised as medical devices. Lieberman introduces us to a colorful cast of creators and purveyors who have played a role in destigmatizing masturbation and revolutionizing the sex industry. Among others, these include an enterprising paraplegic who embarked on a handcrafted dildo manufacturing business, which helped usher innovative variations on sex toys into the mainstream consumer market. Lieberman also profiles the two creative entrepreneurs behind the Pleasure Chest adult novelty chain and American artists and sex educators Betty Dodson and Joani Blank, and she updates readers on more contemporary advancements within the sex toy arena. On a deeper level, through its probing exploration, the text also becomes a sharp commentary on contemporary society’s ever changing sexual landscape and how sex is perceived, judged, accepted, and enjoyed with more variations than ever before.

Provocative, illuminating, and consistently entertaining.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-543-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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...


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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