A potent ode to the power of advocacy journalism.

USING MY WORD POWER

ADVOCATING FOR A MORE CIVILIZED SOCIETY

A veteran writer offers guidance for future advocacy journalists in this first installment of a nonfiction trilogy.

Dedicated “to those who believe that our words and actions matter in advancing a more civilized and better society,” this book is built on the principle that advocacy journalism is essential to a thriving democracy. With a doctorate in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin, Ellis has an expertise in the field that includes solid academic underpinnings and four decades of experience as an advocacy journalist whose commentary and writings have appeared on radio and blogs and in newspapers. Teaching by example, the book mostly reprints articles that provide readers not only with expert commentary on race relations from the perspective of a Black woman, but also models for neophyte writers. To Ellis, far too many of today’s advocacy journalists are willing to sacrifice facts and fairness for partisan propaganda and sensationalism. Alternately, the author implores readers to see advocacy journalism as “a plea” that entreats people “to think, to consider the facts, the circumstances, the workable solutions for the issues at hand, and when appropriate and necessary to engage in action.” More than just offering wisdom for today’s budding journalists, as a Black writer born in Mississippi who remembers “the humiliation” of segregation firsthand, Ellis gives readers of all vocations a sage voice. She blends solid research with well-reasoned arguments on issues that range from interracial marriage and gun control to Confederate statues and Native American mascots. Divided into two parts (“Humanity Dignity Respect” and “Commemorations”), the book offers concise articles and commentaries centered on the overarching theme of “Ethics and Values,” delivering “real” advocacy journalism. While the volume perhaps goes overboard in its inclusion of more than 70 articles published in other venues, the author is a master journalist who skillfully balances her passionate takes with objective facts and effectively deploys “the only real and lasting weapon” people have: their words.

A potent ode to the power of advocacy journalism.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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