Not for everyone but candid and topical.

WE NEED TO TALK

A MEMOIR ABOUT WEALTH

A philanthropist and dot-com–boom millionaire broaches the topic of extreme affluence by exploring the impact sudden wealth had on her life.

Risher joined the Microsoft human resources department in 1991 after leaving a fledgling career in advertising. At $26,000, her starting salary was modest. But the stock options that came with her job began to skyrocket less than two years later, and her 1995 marriage to a Microsoft executive catapulted her into stratospheric heights of wealth. Yet her new life was no fairy tale. The daughter of middle-class parents who inculcated the importance of frugality, she suddenly discovered her own greed. She remembers, for example, how her nearly one-carat diamond engagement ring only whetted an appetite for a “bigger, flawless, colorless, perfectly-cut stone.” But Risher worked on moderating her desires. Rather than buy a McMansion, she and her husband settled on a house that fit their status as urban professionals. When she eventually left Microsoft to raise children, she worried about lacking deeper purpose and alienating middle-class friends and family members. Aware that the public education system was broken, the author enrolled her children in a private school where parents “sized one another up” and competed to make the largest donations. Eventually, Risher became involved in charitable giving projects. She also connected with other affluent women who made her realize that feeling insecure and struggling to speak openly about money with friends and family were part of the price one paid for being newly wealthy. The naiveté and guilt the author demonstrates may frustrate some readers, but her honesty about the personal dark sides that sudden wealth revealed is admirable, as is her stated wish to see “a system…that helps redistribute the wealth at the top” for the benefit of all. In an era of income inequality, her book, which offers discussion questions about money and wealth throughout, offers a starting point for an uncomfortable subject of increasing importance to everyone.

Not for everyone but candid and topical.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939096-46-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Xeno/Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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