A unique slice of male high school life with strong crossover appeal for YA readers.

SHOW THEM YOU'RE GOOD

A PORTRAIT OF BOYS IN THE CITY OF ANGELS THE YEAR BEFORE COLLEGE

The ups and downs of male college-bound high school seniors during the 2016-2017 school year in Los Angeles.

In his first book, the much-praised The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (2014), Hobbs, a Yale graduate, focused on a black male Yale graduate who was murdered after returning to his hometown of Newark. In the author’s second work of nonfiction, the clear hero is Carlos, an undocumented Mexican immigrant also headed to Yale. Here, however, the music is polyphonic: Hobbs follows nine young men of varied races and ethnicities—four main and five lesser figures—cutting back and forth among their splintered accounts of college applications, taking AP classes, playing video games, pursuing after-school activities, and despairing over the 2016 election. Two key players attended the Ánimo Pat Brown charter school: the academic star Carlos, who applied to both Ivy League colleges and for protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; and Tio, a student leader rightly worried that his grades, though high, would not get him into top California colleges. The two other linchpins of the story attended Beverly Hills High School: Owen knew he was well off, but his mother was bedridden with a chronic illness; Sam’s mother, who was born in China, grilled him about school in ways he found “maddening.” At times, the author’s jump-cuts among the nine voices make it difficult to keep the teenagers straight, particularly the too-numerous secondary figures, and the story lacks the strong, cohesive narrative of his earlier work. Nonetheless, Hobbs offers a rare group portrait of well-rounded, hardworking male teenagers focused on college and securing a bright future. It’s sure to cheer school librarians looking for true stories of male high school students known for something besides their athletic talents or troubles with the law.

A unique slice of male high school life with strong crossover appeal for YA readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1633-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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 top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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