An engrossing exploration of Black life and history from the perspective of a Black woman.



A memoir offers reflections on the African American experience.

As a project engineer and founder of the nonprofit organization B-Relyt, Johnson seeks “strategic” and “organized” answers “to solve the problems in the Black community.” Geared toward solutions, this book is “part-history, part-memoir, and part-self-help” but perhaps most poignantly is, in the author’s words, “my scream” as a Black woman who “had to work twice as hard and be twice as good…just to be considered average.” Divided into four sections, Part 1 centers on a prolonged conversation with Los Angeles megachurch pastor Cecil “Chip” Murray. He walks readers through a succinct but thorough history of African contributions to the world and of the role of Black men and women in the development of the United States. Part 2, the book’s strong point, is Johnson’s memoir that details her experiences as a Black girl at predominantly White schools, her role in the rebuilding of Los Angeles after 1992’s Rodney King verdict, and the struggles of Black motherhood—for instance, choosing between racist private schools and public schools in “the hood” for her son. The final two sections focus on self-help, both on the individual and collective levels, and contain reflection questions and space for journaling, as the work encourages readers to think about their own experiences with racism. Unafraid to “hold anything back,” the author is at times also critical of the Black community. After devoting a chapter to the mistakes she made in her own life, Johnson turns her attention to 10 negative character traits that she sees in different subsets of Black Americans, from those who are too “Bougie” to those who tell others “You Ain’t Black Enough.” Though its critiques of Black men and women may be off-putting to some readers, the book always balances these assessments with self-love, from its early chapters that highlight Black history to its concluding “Thank You” letters written to over a dozen of Johnson’s Black heroes. These include her parents, her husband, former President Barack Obama, and Steve Harvey.

An engrossing exploration of Black life and history from the perspective of a Black woman. (bibliography, author bio)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5456-3614-5

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Mill City Press, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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