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BULLETPROOF VEST

From the Object Lessons series

A compelling, thoughtful dive into the pursuit of being bulletproof.

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A reporter discusses the practical and symbolic utility of Kevlar vests in this book-length essay in the Object Lessons series.

In 2017, the New York Times assigned journalist and debut author Rosen to cover the campaign to drive the Islamic State group from the Iraqi city of Mosul. On the advice of the Times’ Baghdad bureau chief, the author invested in some body armor: “The next question I ask is silly and ridiculous: How will I know when to use the flak jacket and helmet? His answer amounts to, ‘you’ll know,’ as though it was a choice when someone wanted to be safe and when they were willing to risk the absence of the protective vest.” When his equipment arrived, it wasn’t the body-hugging, concealable vest that he was expecting, but rather a bulky, suffocating garment. A few days later, Rosen went to Iraq, where the notion of bullets hitting bodies was never far from his mind. For the author, a lifelong sufferer of anxiety, the idea of a bulletproof vest (or a “bullet resistant” one, as the salesman reminded him) suggested a potent metaphor for humanity’s relationship to violence, security, and mortality. His book mixes his own wartime accounts from Iraq and Syria with discussions of anxiety and the history of body armor; along the way, Rosen seeks to describe just what he was trying to banish when he put on his vest. The author’s prose alternates between being confessional and informative; an example of the latter is when he discusses types of armor used by previous civilizations: “The Aztecs soaked quilted cotton in a saltwater brine, which crystallized when dried. The garment stiffened enough that when layered it could protect warriors from blades and spears.” Over the course of this reliably tense book, Rosen does a wonderful job of emphasizing the destructive power of warfare by framing his thoughts around account of being a noncombatant in a war zone. Overall, it’s a quick read but one with great impact, as it asks its audience not only to think about protective vests, but also about the soft, vulnerable things that they’re meant to protect.

A compelling, thoughtful dive into the pursuit of being bulletproof.

Pub Date: April 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5013-5302-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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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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THE AGE OF GRIEVANCE

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

The New York Times columnist serves up a cogent argument for shelving the grudge and sucking it up.

In 1976, Tom Wolfe described the “me decade” as a pit of mindless narcissism. A half century later, Bruni, author of Born Round and other bestselling books, calls for a renaming: “‘Me Turning Point’ would have been more accurate, because the period of time since has been a nonstop me jamboree.” Our present cultural situation, he notes, is marked by constant grievance and endless grasping. The ensuing blame game has its pros. Donald Trump, he notes, “became a victor by playing the victim, and his most impassioned oratory, such as it was, focused not on the good that he could do for others but on the bad supposedly done to him.” Bruni is an unabashed liberal, and while he places most of the worst behavior on the right—he opens with Sean Hannity’s bleating lie that the Biden administration was diverting scarce baby formula from needy Americans to illegal immigrants—he also allows that the left side of the aisle has committed its share of whining. A case in point: the silencing of a professor for showing an image of Mohammed to art students, neither religiously proscribed nor done without ample warning, but complained about by self-appointed student censors. Still, “not all grievances are created equal,” he writes. “There is January 6, 2021, and there is everything else. Attempts by leaders on the right to minimize what happened that day and lump it together with protests on the left are as ludicrous as they are dangerous.” Whether from left or right, Bruni calls for a dose of humility on the part of all: “an amalgam of kindness, openness, and silliness might be an effective solvent for grievance.”

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668016435

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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