Strange, puzzling, yet somehow forcefully compelling.

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BLUE BEYOND BLUE

EXTRAORDINARY TALES FOR ORDINARY DILEMMAS

Memoirist and psychologist Slater (Opening Skinner’s Box, 2004, etc.) explores the fairy tale.

Narrative psychotherapy, she explains in the introduction, is a technique first articulated in the 1980s. The idea is that you can do therapy through writing, not just talking. Indeed, when Slater finds her conversations with a patient stuck in small talk, she will ask him to write, which somehow helps both therapist and patient move to the next plane. She believes that fairy tales are especially useful in narrative psychotherapy; their stark images, iconic figures and deceptively simple prose allow the writer to distill. In her clinical practice, Slater has written fairy tales and asked her patients to finish or somehow play with them. She has also written fairy tales for herself, and includes 16 of them here. Some are new versions of classics; “Ruby Red,” for example, retells the story of Snow White from the perspective of her stepmother—who is really her mother and a self-described “perimenopausal bitch.” Other stories come wholly from Slater’s imagination. In one, an over-the-hill mother gives birth to Charles Darwin; in another, a depressed queen finds her way from sadness to happiness. “Defenestration” charts subtle fissures and shifts in the marriage of an unnamed man and woman. Black-and-white illustrations reminiscent of old woodcuts encourage the sense that readers are delving into a familiar yet foreign world where anything might happen. Mermaids might enroll in prep school; longed-for daughters might hatch out of eggs. The text resonates throughout with Slater’s hallmark themes: motherhood, illness, puberty, defining and holding onto whatever it is that makes you really yourself. These curious stories will not be for everyone. But those willing to follow the author into the world of forests, myths and symbols will be richly rewarded.

Strange, puzzling, yet somehow forcefully compelling.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-393-05959-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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