Bold, well-crafted essays on living, loving, and striving while black.



Courage and outrage inform 13 essays about black womanhood.

Novelist, memoirist, and essayist McLarin (Writing, Literature, and Publishing/Emerson Col..; Divorce Dog: Men, Motherhood and Midlife, 2015, etc.) gathers forthright essays reflecting on love, friendship, motherhood, and, above all, overt and “thinly-veiled” expressions of racism. At 15, McLarin left home to attend Phillips Exeter Academy, where she felt a growing anger at “an omnipresent cultural representation of Blackness as ugliness” and at an elite white community that deemed her an outsider. “This place, this world, these people do not mean for you to live,” she believed. “You can go along and die. Or you can get pissed.” Her anger “was safe and energizing and life-saving” but also isolating. Anger abated a bit at Duke only to surface again when she began to work as a journalist, where “resentful white reporters” whispered that she had gotten her job only because she was black and where she covered the effects of poverty, prejudice, and injustice. “I’ve been labeled angry, aloof, and even uppity,” she writes, by people who could not “understand the origins of such projections.” McLarin praises the Obamas for their “calm, centered, not-taking-it-personally response” to the endemic racism that “is as American as apple pie.” Not as serene, after being “mistreated, disrespected, or generally screwed-over or wronged” 359 times (a “guesstimate”) in her life, she twice resorted to revenge. And beginning when she was 17, she suffered recurrences of debilitating depression, a malady she had thought affected only whites: “Mental illness, mental disorder of any possible stripe, was definitely white folks’ mess.” In her candid title essay, she considers her transition from girlhood to womanhood, the female body, and her experiences of midlife online dating, where misogyny was apparent—misogyny, like racism, rooted in fear. “What white America fears,” she writes, “is not Black people but the loss of white identity, privilege and position the Black presence demands and also the spiritual and culture power Black survival has produced.”

Bold, well-crafted essays on living, loving, and striving while black.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63246-079-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Ig Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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