Full of grim yet important statistics and vignettes as well as a few sensible solutions.




Another alarming report from the front lines of the opioid epidemic.

Shuler, who teaches journalism at Denison University, focuses his on-the-ground study in nearby Newark, Ohio, “a microcosm of the U.S. economy—a once-prosperous industrial city that has felt the effects of neoliberal free-trade policies.” Though not far from Columbus, Newark is also perched on the edge of Appalachia; it suffers from all the troubles of a Rust Belt city, including a populace that is largely unprepared for this long-term economic shift and has not been quick to reeducate itself. Thus begins a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy—as Shuler points out, the toll that opioids take on the under- or uneducated means more than four times the death rate as compared to those with even some college. This speaks to the current notion, propounded by economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, of “deaths of despair.” As Shuler further notes, although the opioid crisis is indisputably a matter of public health and “a form of collective trauma on par with the HIV/AIDS crisis,” it is generally treated as a criminal matter, which only exacerbates the problem. Some of Shuler’s informants have had it a little better in life but still fall victim: a woman of a comparatively privileged background who turned to drugs to self-medicate for bipolar disorder and who deems the current overdose crisis—“since 2000, the accidental overdose rate in Ohio has more than tripled”—a human rights crisis as well. The author ventures some eminently practical measures, including making lifesaving medications widely available; more users, he urges, “could be saved from an opioid overdose death if more people had naloxone.” Furthermore, we blame drugs too readily when “they’re just a symptom” of a greater social crisis we continually fail to address. Though not quite on par, this book should be shelved next to Beth Macy’s Dopesick and Sam Quinones’ Dreamland.

Full of grim yet important statistics and vignettes as well as a few sensible solutions.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-355-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.


A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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