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A MAP OF FUTURE RUINS

ON BORDERS AND BELONGING

A remarkable, unnerving, and cautionary portrait of a global immigration crisis.

A journalist’s self-aware exploration of borders and the myths used to draw them.

Markham, author of The Far Away Brothers, has spent two decades reporting from some of the world’s most chaotic borders, telling the stories of those left at their mercy. In her latest book, she takes a heartbreaking account—of a fire that decimated a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos and the Afghan youth falsely accused of setting it—and winds it together with her family’s history of immigrating from Greece, as well as commentary on the entanglement of human migration and existence itself. The author chronicles her interviews with residents of the camp, the legal team for the accused, the Greek residents who surrounded them with varying degrees of hospitality and sympathy, and members of her own family. She also draws from the insight and wisdom of Soviet refugee Svetlana Boym. Greece’s position in the Western imagination—reflected in its myths and its influences on Western thought and even whiteness—and its often misrepresented history, create a thought-provoking and frustratingly circular backdrop for Markham’s endeavor, one often ignored or obscured in even the most probing media coverage. Many of the narrative threads could justify being their own book, and the author’s tight prose, character-driven storytelling, and humility clearly demonstrate the desperation at the heart of forced migration. She effectively calls out the callousness of the creators of, investors in, and patrollers of borders. Markham’s refreshingly self-conscious rumination on the project of a journalist, as well as her understanding of both the potential pitfalls and possible impact of her empathetic text, reinforce her interrogation of the “stories humans have created to make sense of our existence,” the maps we have drawn to depict those stories, and the elusive nature of truth.

A remarkable, unnerving, and cautionary portrait of a global immigration crisis.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9780593545577

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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