Thoughtful, deftly crafted reflections on race and identity.

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MY TIME AMONG THE WHITES

NOTES FROM AN UNFINISHED EDUCATION

Autobiographical essays reveal the challenges of a first-generation American.

New York Times contributing opinion writer Crucet (English and Ethnic Studies/Univ. of Nebraska; Make Your Home Among Strangers, 2015, etc.), winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Prize, among other awards, makes an affecting nonfiction debut with a collection of essays that explore family, culture, and her identity as a Cuban American. Her parents, Cuban refugees, named her after a beauty queen in the Miss USA pageant. They believed that “you give your kids white American names so that their teachers can’t tell what they are before meeting them,” and so they have a better chance at avoiding prejudice. For Crucet’s mother, “her ideal daughter was a white girl because she had long internalized the idea that as Latinas, we’d be treated as lesser, that we were somehow lesser. And she just wanted better for me, which meant: whiter.” Because she grew up seeing Cubans who worked as doctors, police officers, and teachers, she did not realize, until she went to college in upstate New York, that mainstream American culture looked predominantly white. As a light-skinned Latina, Crucet often made a deliberate choice not to reveal her racial identity. In college, when she read Nella Larsen’s novel Passing, she “first recognized this trespassing as an act in which I had sometimes found myself but didn’t yet know how to define” and first noticed that whites “who misread me as also white” sometimes showed “the kind of pervasive racism usually reserved for white-only spaces.” Among the “white-only spaces” she sensitively examines are Disney World, “grounded in whiteness and heteronormative gender roles”; college classes, where white professors and white students singled her out “as the official Latinx ambassador”; the process of planning a wedding to a man who came from “a white monolingual American family”; and a cattle ranch in Nebraska, where she signed up to work with the hope of learning something about the culture of her prospective students at the university.

Thoughtful, deftly crafted reflections on race and identity.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-29943-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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