Little more than a young man’s journal, chronicling years of personal hopes, troubles, and obligations.

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Diamonds of Infinity

A mélange of journal entries, songs, and poems form the basis of this memoir of bohemian adolescence.

Reagan’s debut begins by describing his typical adolescent sense of bewilderment, but unlike most searching for meaning, he travels to Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam (among other destinations) to find it. Out there, he slurps noodles with his “lost apostles” and strums his guitar on the beach while Hindu pujas proceed in the background. His arrival in New York follows heartbreak; a journal entry describes him driving to his ex’s in Colorado to drop off a bag of her stuff, hoping for a final catharsis but finding her absent. He composes a note amidst a mosquito swarm, hoping the sentimental objects in the bag will work like so many daggers to the heart. In New York, he struggles to plan paintings for friends and family; they often appear on lists of obligations, but rarely as anything but names. Unexplained references to personal details occur regularly; characters often materialize for a page only to disappear for the rest of the book. Reagan also struggles with the city itself, and especially the vapid, drug-fueled, bohemian lifestyle of New York artists he meets. Interspersed between these journal entries are dozens of free-verse songs and poems, with subjects ranging from hangovers to global consciousness. Many of the poems appear to be raw drafts, and their wide-eyed vivacity sometimes degenerates into clichéd platitudes: “Our apple is bad / The world’s not in our eye.” Reagan struggles with finances, selling his work, and relationships, but his globe-trotting and Brooklynite lifestyle make his complaints often read as whining. For instance, he rants about his band mate’s stubbornness, despite later admitting that he’s been slacking, too. Some entries’ rambling style might appeal to youthful traveler types: “Bob Dylan’s your god and his good old friends and you want his life and you’re not giving in you’ll get it soon, it’ll be yours soon, everything that you ever dreamed.” But the references to Reagan’s inscrutable history, to-do lists, and melodramatic diary entries are too personal and too unpolished to allow this collection to transcend its source material.

Little more than a young man’s journal, chronicling years of personal hopes, troubles, and obligations.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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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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