An elucidating, nuanced study of gender and feminist dynamics perfect for our current political moment.




A timely study of gender and media that reaches back before the present American election to earlier delineations of white manhood and presidential power.

In this astute study, Katz (Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood, 2012, etc.), a journalist, documentarian, and scholar on gender and violence, asserts that long before Hillary Clinton battled single-handedly the slew of male presidential candidates, cultural ideas about gender spurred U.S. presidential campaigns, beginning with the watershed year of 1972. Presidents, argues the author, not only command material power (e.g., as commander in chief), but also symbolic power, as the “living embodiment of the nation.” Alpha males like Theodore Roosevelt notwithstanding, the landslide victory of incumbent Republican Richard Nixon over Democratic Sen. George McGovern in 1972 cleverly realigned gender politics by underscoring the “flight” of white, working-class men from the party traditionally associated with their concerns (e.g., New Deal coalition) to align with the party slyly capitalizing on pressing issues of patriotism and law and order. Indeed, Nixon wooed the “silent majority” by casting aspersions on the manliness of McGovern and his “hippie fags,” the counterculture liberals, and anti-war protesters who had gone “soft” and “feminine.” This was the beginning pattern in competing versions of masculinity used very effectively by the GOP, as Katz traces, from subsequent campaigns: Ronald Reagan vs. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush, John Kerry vs. George W. Bush, and John McCain vs. Barack Obama. In all cases, the Republicans portrayed themselves as vigorous and combative, while Democrats were cast as wimpy and emasculated. As evidenced by the 2012 election, however, the white, working-class male finds his electoral majority shrinking alarmingly—hence, the appeal of Donald Trump. Especially as social media has helped inject women’s voices into the national debate, Katz points out how Hillary Clinton’s rise as a powerful fighter has refreshingly reshuffled these long-held definitions.

An elucidating, nuanced study of gender and feminist dynamics perfect for our current political moment.

Pub Date: July 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56656-083-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Interlink

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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