Part memoir, part cultural criticism, entirely fascinating.


An award-winning poet wonders what it means to be a witch.

There is an idea that those who describe themselves as witches are following traditions that can be traced back to an ancient, woman-positive, nature-based religion—and that those who suppressed its practices were afraid of anyone who didn’t fit neatly within a patriarchal society. This is the version of the past Nuernberger was seeking when she first started reading histories of witchcraft and the transcripts of witch trials. What she discovered was more complex. As she explores the lives of women accused of witchcraft, the author investigates the relations among their experiences, her own life, and contemporary American society, and she brings both a poet’s intuition and a philosopher’s insight to the text. For example, writing about Agnes Waterhouse, the first woman executed for witchcraft in England, Nuernberger quotes Foucault and mentions Frazier v. Cupp—in which the Supreme Court ruled that police can use deception when interviewing a suspect—as she considers the phenomenon of false confession. As Nuernberger shows, many of these women were often broken by torture and forced to confess to their “crimes,” a process that reflected Christian ideas about evil prevalent during their time rather than relics of a matriarchal prehistory. There are a few exceptions to this pattern, though, and the author ends with one of them. As the “Voodoo Queen” of New Orleans, Marie Laveau (1801-1881) has been transformed into tourist kitsch. There is no question that Laveau practiced rootwork and other spiritual modalities informed by African and Native American beliefs, and it would be wrong to discount the value of these practices among communities of color in the 19th-century South. However, as Nuernberger explains, Laveau also possessed a keen understanding of how to work within a legal system designed to make even free people of color live like slaves. As it turns out, her greatest magic may have been her mastery of property law.

Part memoir, part cultural criticism, entirely fascinating.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-946448-70-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Sarabande

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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