An intellectually rigorous and emotionally affecting account of modern enslavement.

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

AMERICA'S SLAVES OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM

A brief but exhaustive debut book looks at human trafficking.

Slavery remains a stubborn feature of the modern world; in fact, some specialists say that there has never been more of it. Even worse, citizens’ inadvertent sponsorship of it is simply unavoidable. According to Mehlman-Orozco, “Unfortunately, every single American has used, consumed, worn, and purchased products of slavery at multiple points throughout their life.” But very little of this phenomenon conforms to the public’s general perception of slavery’s nature, partly due to persistent mischaracterizations in the media. The author, an expert in human trafficking with a Ph.D. in criminology, law, and society from George Mason University, explains that various kinds of coerced labor exist all around us. And while some of that trafficking is a function of kidnapping and physical imprisonment, much of it is far subtler, the result of varying strategies of duress designed to deceive the vulnerable. Mehlman-Orozco distinguishes between two primary types of human trafficking: sexual and labor. In the case of the former, there are many different iterations, ranging from the child runaway defrauded into believing she was being given a shot at a better life to newly arrived immigrants duped into long-term indentured servitude, coerced into using their bodies to pay off debt. Labor trafficking is more common and less effectively policed; Mehlman-Orozco discusses a nail salon that imports new technicians from Vietnam and then compels them to work interminable hours for meager pay. Her meticulous research is based not only on a survey of the available literature, but also on her own interviews with victims, perpetrators of human trafficking, and the consumers who patronize their businesses. Mehlman-Orozco’s prose is both lucid and emotionally stirring, and she often illustrates her points with personal anecdotes to paint a picture that transcends statistical analysis. The subject matter can be disturbing—the chapter devoted to child sex tourism is particularly harrowing—but she navigates that dark terrain with grace and professionalism. She helpfully suggests a number of ways the response from law enforcement could be greatly improved, including empowering otherwise disenfranchised victims to come forward.

An intellectually rigorous and emotionally affecting account of modern enslavement.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4408-5403-3

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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