An asset for educators interested in feminism and pop-culture pedagogy.



Brooklyn-based educator and speaker Allred delivers a book-length extension of a college class he designed, “Politicizing Beyoncé,” including texts, references, and broader theoretical frameworks.

This project fits in the educational tradition of including analysis of popular culture as a teaching strategy, now widely regarded as an access point for students to engage with critical theory. Focusing on black feminism, Allred builds a thorough and detailed critical study of how Beyoncé’s catalog reflects, connects to, and is informed by literary and theoretical work. He interrogates Beyoncé’s music and videos to explore the complicated spaces where racism, sexism, and capitalism collide. Using the singer’s work as a canon, Allred analyzes how her lyrical and visual texts handle such themes as self-definition, love, and resistance. With a referential scope that includes Sojourner Truth, Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, bell hooks, the Combahee River Collective, and many others, Allred effectively demonstrates how Beyoncé’s work aligns with and advances many elements of black feminism. Throughout, the author offers well-grounded insights into the political and cultural significance of Beyoncé’s work and provides an expansive base from which to view it. Yet the enthusiasm that may spark lively class discussion does not necessarily translate onto the page, and offering a single class as an academic model may work against the broader purpose of accessibility common to pop-culture pedagogy. While Allred cites the work of the African-American women and scholars examining Beyoncé’s feminist influences and appeal, this text functions more as monologue about a class than a dialogue with the current rich scholarship on the topic. Still, the author’s emphasis on instructional methods positions this work amid important existing trends connecting education to contemporary society. Acclaimed poet and black feminist activist Cheryl Clarke provides the introduction.

An asset for educators interested in feminism and pop-culture pedagogy.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-936932-60-3

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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