JAMES MICHENER'S USA

THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND

The American Dream is alive and well in Michener's USA—witness the "new optimism" in New England, the prevalence of "racial cooperation" in the Old South, the one-generation ascent of Mexican-Americans in the Southwest. Why, homeowners are even planting trees, now, in transient L.A.! This is the script for a forthcoming TV series, and nothing but: some spiel about each of the touchstone places Michener visits, plus some interviews with exemplary citizens. In the Northeast, he looks in on a youth-training program in a reclaimed Kenne-bunkport, Me., boatyard; quizzes Boston mayor Kevin White about the Faneuil Hall redevelopment (and, more pregnantly, the city's ethnicity/racism); draws out Columbia, Md., developer James Rouse on the merits of planned communities. In the South, he corrals Atlanta luminaries Coretta Scott King and Andrew Young; the folks behind Savannah's restoration; a contented Miami Cuban emigre; Arkansas' progressive ex-governor Bill Clinton—with intermediate stops at Monticello, Cape Canaveral/Disney World, Cajun country, etc. And so it goes from sea to shining sea. Very few of the interviewees say anything memorable (New York Shakespeare Festival impresario Joe Papp is a rare exception) or even anything of substance (Iowa farmer Bill Judge is a standout here); most simply follow Michener's lead and plug local efforts. (He also, quite patently, feeds them lines.) On occasion, too, he's Michener-the-Writer—telling a Russian Jewish emigre student at Yale (after a mere two years in the US) that Soviet writers "enjoy a higher position than we do" and informing some Iowa undergrads that he wrote "large books like Hawaii and The Source as an antidote to some of the really dreadful television shows." Mostly canned constructiveness and blatant boosterism—but with the pictures here and on TV, it won't displease the multitudes who, understandably, want no truck with talk of "malaise.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1981

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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