BETWEEN EVERYTHING AND NOTHING

THE JOURNEY OF SEIDU MOHAMMED AND RAZAK IYAL AND THE QUEST FOR ASYLUM

A well-paced and engaging account, highly relevant to current political debates.

Ambitious exposé of the troubled immigration system as seen through the lens of two African migrants’ experiences.

Meno, a professor of creative writing and prolific fiction writer, tracks the grueling journeys of his complexly rendered protagonists, Razak and Seidu, both from Ghana, one fleeing a murderous family dispute, the other a promising soccer player facing persecution after being outed as bisexual. The author portrays them convincingly as hapless pawns in a massive explosion of migration, countered in the Americas with greed and cruelty. Even for those with legitimate reasons to seek shelter, like his protagonists, “the asylum process in the U.S. has become its own inviolable system.” The narrative is both sprawling and controlled, as Meno alternates between a terrifying account of their attempts to reach safety across the Canadian border during a blizzard and the longer-term arc of their improbable, brutal journeys as migrants. Both men traveled through Central America, facing constant danger and abuse. Applying for asylum at the American border, they discovered an unfortunate truth: that the post–9/11 realignment of homeland security “had far-reaching political and cultural consequences, immediately changing how refugees and asylum seekers were publicly viewed.” Razak was detained for two years at a remote private prison, feeling “he had been taken out of the world.” Seidu was also detained, eventually bonded to his brother’s custody: “It was almost too much, this homecoming, this feeling of unabashed love and support” Yet, despite his credible fear, his request for asylum was denied without explanation, prompting his flight to Canada. Similarly, Razak found a life in New York but fled north after being scheduled for deportation. The narrative is dispiriting, as Meno documents the Kafkaesque, for-profit reality of today’s immigration morass, but Meno writes deftly, with a fine sense of detail and place, bringing an all-too-common story to life.

A well-paced and engaging account, highly relevant to current political debates.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-314-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

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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  • New York Times Bestseller

POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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