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

AUTHENTICITY, ACCOUNTABILITY & AMBITIONS

SPEAKING THE TRUTH THROUGH A BLACK WOMAN’S EYES

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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