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

BETWEEN EVERYTHING AND NOTHING

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

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 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

MY BODY

The international model embarks on a nuanced investigation of her body and identity.

Ratajkowski’s exploration of fame, self-identity, and what it means to be a “beautiful” woman is surprisingly engaging. Originally thrust into the spotlight in 2013 due to her scantily clad appearance in the music video for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the author eventually became known for her stances about beauty and sexuality and how they are commodified. Now that she is a wife and mother, she writes, “I feel a tenderness toward my younger self. My defensiveness and defiance are palpable to me now. What I wrote and preached then reflected what I believed at the time, but it missed a much more complicated picture. In many ways, I have been undeniably rewarded by capitalizing on my sexuality….But in other, less overt ways, I’ve felt objectified and limited by my position in the world as a so-called sex symbol.” This short book includes the juicy tidbits that avid celebrity-memoir readers seek, and the author shares how she really felt about the video shoot and how the aftermath affected her. Beyond that, the book is a reflective coming-of-age-in-the-industry tale, a story that is never maudlin but contains a few thick, murky sections. Ratajkowski attempts to break down the construction of her identity and sexuality in relation to the ever present male gaze as well as her relationships with the women in her life. The charm of this book lies in the author’s largely relatable writing, which shows the complex emotions and confusion of a young woman experiencing her sexual development and maturation into a capable adult. Admitting that the “purpose of the book is not to arrive at answers, but honestly to explore ideas I can’t help but return to,” Ratajkowski grapples directly with a host of thorny issues.

A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-81786-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more