As the author writes in a passage that easily describes his book, “the news here is never boring. Tragic and disturbing?...

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A FLORIDA STATE OF MIND

AN UNNATURAL HISTORY OF OUR WEIRDEST STATE

Every state has its peculiarities, but Florida has an abundance like no other.

On the surface, the Sunshine State evokes images of Disney World, retirement communities, and palm-studded beaches. But as St. Pete Beach resident Wright (Sociology/Univ. of Central Florida) notes in his first book, “in Florida, nothing is ever quite as it seems. Every story has a back story, every point a counterpoint, every ugliness a contrary scene of sublime beauty. Whenever Florida purports to be one thing, it turns out to be another.” Divided into four parts—history, economy, people/politics, and environment—the book amply demonstrates that the last place to find the truth is in the brochures and mass media. Consider Florida’s prominent retirement community, the Villages. Overwhelmingly white and conservative, the area is billed as a sedate pocket to retire and play golf, but the author dispels the myths, fleshing out an entirely different picture: a wild underside featuring “rampant sexual conquest,” a thriving black market in Viagra, golf cart DUIs, and senior bar brawls. “A local gynecologist said that she treated more cases of herpes and HPV in The Villages than she ever did during her stint in Miami,” writes the author. In a state highlighted by its prized orange orchards, good luck finding a Florida-grown orange at the stores, which sell only California imports. Why? Because Florida’s oranges are harvested strictly for its lucrative orange juice industry. And if you think that jug of OJ is fresh-squeezed as advertised, think again; as part of its manufacture, the juice sits in massive tanks for up to a year before bottling. Studded with “factoids, oddments, stories, and back stories,” Wright’s book chronicles his travels throughout this odd state uncovering everything from the truth behind the infamous “hanging chads” of the 2000 election to wild pig attacks and notorious con men.

As the author writes in a passage that easily describes his book, “the news here is never boring. Tragic and disturbing? Often. Zany and funny? Regularly. Just plain weird? Most of the time. But boring? Never.”

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-18565-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

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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