An original fusion of topic and stance that will appeal to fans of NPR-style social investigations.

THROWN

A philosophical examination of the maligned subculture of mixed martial arts “cage” fighting.

As an unhappy graduate student, Howley wandered from a Des Moines academic conference into a cage match and became entranced, meeting one of two fighters she would follow as a "spacetaker.” As she notes of MMA’s roots in Brazil, “[f]ighting had to be born in the one place where ecstasy remained the organizing principle.” As the narrative progresses, the author becomes strangely possessive of both fighters, documenting their lives in minute detail. Her underdog, Sean, is a journeyman with a deep tolerance for injury and a stolid, sentimental attitude about MMA: “I just like to feel things.” Howley prefers the glitzy dreams of Erik, an insecure, self-indulgent fighter being groomed for nationwide success: “[I]n coming to Milwaukee, [Erik] signaled some readiness to belong in the world of the Big Shows.” The author spent two years pursuing both fighters, describing their tumultuous yet stagnant lives in alternating chapters, and fretting over her tenuous role: "It is not unheard of for a fighter to drop a spacetaker just as brutally as Nietzsche turned on Schopenhauer." The book’s strongest aspect is Howley’s keen observation of every part of the fighters’ hardscrabble milieu—from their complex interpersonal relationships to the sleazy finances that keep the scene going—yet she ultimately views them as vessels for her own ideas. An ambitious writer, Howley’s prose can be perceptive and precisely detailed but also pretentious. Though she strives to present herself as uncondescending in this working-class milieu (unlike her caricatured fellow academics), her constant first-person reveries feel self-congratulatory: “I had by this time filled three notebooks with my observations, and had begun to consider the tradition in which my work of phenomenology would fall. Too bold for conventional academic minds and the nonsmoking, healthy-minded, hidebound thinkers therein.”

An original fusion of topic and stance that will appeal to fans of NPR-style social investigations.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936747-92-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sarabande

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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