Springing from the literal Earth to metaphor, Savoy demonstrates the power of narrative to erase as easily as it reveals,...

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TRACE

MEMORY, HISTORY, RACE, AND THE AMERICAN LANDSCAPE

An earth scientist explores the broad historical branches extending from her own roots.

Many geologists limit their subjects of inquiry to the Earth, probing contours of the land to reveal how past developments have come to shape the present. In Savoy’s (Environmental Studies and Geology/Mount Holyoke Coll.; co-author: The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World, 2011, etc.) latest study, however, the quest of this self-described “Earth historian” begins closer to home. She traces her Native, African-, Euro-American ancestry across the United States in the hope of learning what her extended family experienced. The author’s parents both served in the military during World War II, her father in the segregated Army Air Forces and her mother as a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps. Impelled by their reticence when recounting their experiences in different communities, Savoy retraces her parents’ steps from Washington, D.C., to California, South Carolina, Arizona, and the Mexican borderland, searching in each destination for the muted historical realities of the marginalized. Along this trek, the author unearths unfathomable stories of racial discrimination and federally sanctioned hypocrisy—e.g., Charles Drew, the African-American physician who developed the blood bank, was fired when he tried to end the “government-approved” policy of segregating blood; African-American nurses in the ranks of the Army Nurse Corps experienced segregation when forced to serve where white nurses refused to. Savoy’s well-researched account, which includes numerous lyric eyewitness descriptions of place, also delves into recently declassified National Archives records to note how prisoners of war “expressed to the nurses their surprise that Americans would fight to preserve democracy abroad and at home exhibit prejudice to other Americans solely because of their skin color.”

Springing from the literal Earth to metaphor, Savoy demonstrates the power of narrative to erase as easily as it reveals, yielding a provocative, eclectic exposé of the palimpsest historically defining the U.S. as much as any natural or man-made boundary.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61902-573-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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