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

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BULLETPROOF VEST

From the Object Lessons series

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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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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