Thoughtful, deftly crafted reflections on race and identity.



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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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


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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