Candid testimony from impressive and influential women.

LIGHTING THE FIRES OF FREEDOM

AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

African-American women contributed significantly to the campaign for racial justice.

An Emmy-winning TV and radio producer, social justice activist Bell makes her literary debut with a revealing collection of oral histories by nine African-American women prominent in the civil rights movement. Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the book follows the careers of New Orleans chef and restaurant owner Leah Chase; psychiatrist June Jackson Christmas; Aileen Hernandez, the first African-American president of the National Organization of Women; Diane Nash, who helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Judy Richardson, co-founder of Drum and Spear bookstore and Drum and Spear Press, devoted to publishing and promoting African-American literature; Kathleen Cleaver, the first woman to serve on the Central Committee of the Black Panther Party; Gay McDougall, an international human rights activist who focused on ending apartheid in South Africa; Gloria Richardson, whom Ebony magazine called “the Lady General of Civil Rights”; and Myrlie Evers, widow of slain activist Medgar Evers, who later served as chair of the NAACP. Common to all were a spirit of determination and unflagging resilience as they struggled against racism and sexism. Christmas, for example, faced prejudice growing up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when she discovered that a Girl Scout camp and the YWCA both had racial prohibitions. At Vassar, as one of two African-American girls, she was advised that it would “be best for you if you don’t have a roommate.” Later, she was one of seven women in her medical school class and, again, one of two African-Americans. She was denied a residency at New York Hospital, told that “men would be very disturbed by you and stimulated by you.” Most, like McDougall, were raised in a family “where caring and addressing a situation was important.” They were expected to pursue an education, and many ended up at prestigious schools—Swarthmore, Barnard, Yale, Bennington, Howard—where classes and extracurricular activities fueled their motivation.

Candid testimony from impressive and influential women.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62097-335-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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