A startling depiction of an Indigenous people struggling to remain true to their traditions. Yet another triumph for Sacco.


An epic graphic study of an Indigenous people trying to survive between tradition and so-called progress.

Eisner Award winner Sacco’s Palestine (2001) and Footnotes in Gaza (2009) are classics of contemporary graphic journalism. This is his first book since the stunning The Great War: July 1, 1916 (2013), and it’s well worth the wait. The author and illustrator spent six weeks reporting with the Dene people, a native society with deep roots in the Mackenzie River Valley in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Partly oral history and partly a compassionate portrait, the narrative recounts the people’s transition from a culture that respected and lived off the land to one faced with challenges that threaten to erase the fundamentals of their culture. Sacco portrays the Dene’s old ways with his extraordinary illustrations, vividly showing how they once lived. The title comes from citizen Frederick Andrew’s memories from his youth. “You give it something,” he says. “A bullet, perhaps, water, tobacco or tea. It’s like visiting someone. You bring the land a gift.” Many readers will be distressed by the many indignities that modern society has visited upon the Dene people. The recent phenomenon of fracking creates division between those who see economic opportunities and those who believe the practice is a defilement of their land. Sacco also portrays in stark relief the pervasiveness of problems stemming from substance abuse. Another theme involves the arrival of the first airplane, the signal that Canada intended to remove Dene children to residential schools that “were essentially used as a weapon for assimilation and acculturation and Christianization.” The children also suffered horrific abuse from both teachers and other students. Part of what makes Sacco’s portrayal so masterful is his proficiency as a journalist; he uses the real words of Dene citizens to tell their stories, augmenting them with his extraordinary artistic insight.

A startling depiction of an Indigenous people struggling to remain true to their traditions. Yet another triumph for Sacco.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62779-903-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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


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

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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