A singular and entertaining tech account.

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BEYOND THE LITTLE BLUE BOX

A debut biography/memoir tells the story of Silicon Valley outlaw Captain Crunch.

Draper, once known by the pseudonym Captain Crunch, is most famous for inventing “the little blue box,” a homemade piece of phone-hacking equipment that allowed users to make calls anywhere in the world for free. (Two of the people he shared his invention with were youngsters Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, who briefly manufactured and sold a version of the box.) But Draper’s career and influence went far beyond this early innovation of the Phone Phreak movement. Working as a contractor for the company that Jobs and Wozniak went on to found—a little outfit called Apple Computer, Inc.—Draper developed the first word processor. Later, as a thought leader of the internet privacy movement, he created the first working firewall. A prankster, rabble-rouser, and eventual activist, he landed himself in prison several times during the 1970s and ’80s for his hacking activities, leading many figures in Silicon Valley to hold him at a distance. With the help of Fraser, Draper is now telling his story for the first time: the inventions, the police busts, the parties, and the chance encounters in a world populated by tech entrepreneurs and countercultural freaks. Fraser’s frame narration, which is primarily set in the recent past and follows the composition of the book, is sharp and readable. But it is the sections narrated by Draper himself where the real meat is, even if these are rendered in his simple prose. Here he describes his activities after being released from jail one time: “We headed back up to San Jose. I had to report to my probation officer. I hooked up with Woz again when I got back up to Silicon Valley. He had built a few more complete Apple II prototypes.” The book’s self-aware structure and the prominence of Fraser as a character are peculiar choices, but a work about a figure as idiosyncratic as Draper is bound to be a bit odd. Anyone interested in the rise of the tech industry should be fascinated by the strange but influential role that Draper—Captain Crunch—played on its margins.

A singular and entertaining tech account.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 245

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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