USING MY WORD POWER

ADVOCATING FOR A MORE CIVILIZED SOCIETY

A potent ode to the power of advocacy journalism.

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

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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