WHAT WE'VE BECOME

LIVING AND DYING IN A COUNTRY OF ARMS

A powerful, convincing effort to reframe the discussion around gun control and its discontents.

A penetrating look at our failed attempts to curb gun violence.

In April 2018, 29-year-old Travis Reinking, “another angry white man with a gun,” drove from his home in Illinois to Nashville, where he opened fire on the late-night patrons of a Waffle House, most of them young, working-class Black and Latine people. Four died in the shooting, and Reinking eluded capture for a couple of days. When he was caught, it was revealed that he suffered from mental illness and had acted in a threatening manner before. Metzl, a Nashville-based doctor and sociologist and author of Dying of Whiteness, has been arguing for years that gun violence is a public health issue, an analysis that he now considers incomplete. “Strategies from the tobacco wars, the seat belt wars, or other last-century profits-versus-people contests were never going to change the terms of the debate,” he writes. Instead, the epidemic of mass-shooter gun violence, almost all committed by young white men, is the logical manifestation of “a larger racial conflict that [aims] to correct past wrongs and guard against encroachment from woke liberals, undeserving minorities, coastal elites, and overreaching governments.” In other words, it’s not a bug but a feature, and any meaningful gun reform must be a subset of a larger effort to erase inequalities and advance civil rights. The problem of Reinking, like that of all those other angry young white men, is structural, his actions “buoyed by laws, judges, social mores, financial systems, permissive policies, and centuries of history that [have] defined guns as symbols of white liberty.” Metzl’s argument is consistently persuasive and, unfortunately, both timely and probably timeless, given the reluctance of those in power to do anything to halt the bloodshed.

A powerful, convincing effort to reframe the discussion around gun control and its discontents.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781324050254

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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