Blunt, essential reading on today's Appalachia that is less elegiac and more forward-thinking than most.

A collection of on-the-ground reporting from one of the country’s most misunderstood and misrepresented regions.

Before the 2016 election, Donald Trump promised Appalachians that the coal-mining industry would come roaring back; since then, it remains on life support thanks to competing energy sources hammering a business that, for its workers, is economically and literally toxic. In Hillbilly Elegy (2016), J.D. Vance blamed the region’s woes on lack of initiative among its residents, but a host of unique pressures trap the area in poverty. Such clarity comes thanks to the reporting of Ohio Valley ReSource, a media collective launched in 2016 by seven public media outlets in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. This book, drawn from the collective’s reporting and overseen by Young, its managing editor, shows how mining companies have dodged taxes and fines while polluting the region and eluding blame for the illnesses their practices have caused; how exploitative pharmaceutical companies bred the opioid epidemic; and how efforts to launch retraining and revitalization programs tend to disappoint: “How do you bring in people and businesses if you can’t promise them a clean glass of water?” one story concludes. But while the articles paint stark portraits of the region’s troubles, the reporting team doesn’t indulge in ruin-porn clichés about the region; rather, they deliver profiles of people shouldering ahead despite governmental and corporate missteps—e.g., farmers making an uneasy transition into hemp farming and activist efforts to better hold mining companies accountable. The reporting doesn’t aspire to flashy style or epic sweep—the articles are modeled after Sunday-newspaper features—the plainspoken reporting grabs the attention. Bemoaning the newfound emphasis on fracking, one man laments: “I don’t understand why fossil fuel extraction is the only kind of job this area is offered. We want jobs that won’t kill us.”

Blunt, essential reading on today's Appalachia that is less elegiac and more forward-thinking than most.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982148-86-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tiller Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020


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


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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