A passionate, candid, and convincing narrative of unmasking and revelation.

Exploding the profound hypocrisy of sexual life in Morocco.

As Slimani amply shows, Morocco is a country obsessed with sex, but premarital sex, adultery, abortion, prostitution, and homosexuality are all illegal—and, at the same time, rampant. The author of the well-received thriller The Perfect Nanny (2018), Slimani began the project that culminated in this book while on tour in Morocco for her first novel, Adèle, the protagonist of which is a woman with a double life: a secret sex addict who struggles to experience pleasure. Slimani’s feeling that this tale was a metaphor for the collective experience of young Moroccan women proved true when, one after another, women approached her to share their own stories of hypocrisy, oppression, and shame. In explicit opposition to what she calls “Morocco’s motto”—“Do what you wish, but never talk about it”—the author collects the stories of these women and others, one more troubling and outrageous than the next, threading in her own experiences and commentary. We learn that since “virginity is an obsession in Morocco and throughout the Arab world,” girls who have had sex, even via rape, pretend to be virgins and have hymen restoration surgery when marriage is on the table. We hear from a therapist who suffered through two violent marriages: “My second husband…used to rape me regularly. He would bring prostitutes into our home and tell me: ‘You’re lucky…I haven’t humiliated you by taking another wife. You ought to thank me.’ ” One of Slimani’s interviewees, a theology researcher and public intellectual, asserts that though “the Koran is notably silent on questions of sex,” in broadcasts “on the Arabic satellite networks, the ulama (experts on Islamic law) never stop talking about sex.” A particularly ludicrous recent fatwa prohibited women from touching bananas and cucumbers. You can imagine why.

A passionate, candid, and convincing narrative of unmasking and revelation.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313376-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020


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


A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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