A brisk, authoritative, and timely history.

RECKONING

THE EPIC BATTLE AGAINST SEXUAL ABUSE AND HARASSMENT

The social, cultural, and legal battle against sexual harassment has raged for 50 years.

Drawing on interviews, histories, and abundant news articles, Hirshman (Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World, 2015, etc.) offers a savvy and well-informed history of women’s decadeslong fight against sexual abuse and harassment from the 1960s, when there was “no legal category for sexual harassment,” to the outburst of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and the triumph of women candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. Catharine MacKinnon emerges as a driving force in the struggle. As a Yale Law School student, she argued that sexual harassment was discrimination, prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At the time, legal decisions in harassment cases were “motivated by a vision of women, collectively, as inferior to their male counterparts and subject to their whims.” In 1979, MacKinnon published her groundbreaking Sexual Harassment of Working Women, which Hirshman praises as “a little book that started a big war.” Hirshman’s inventory of crucial moments in women’s rights includes Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas before a judiciary committee chaired by Joe Biden, who showed Hill no sympathy. Thomas’ confirmation spurred women to enter—and win—political races in 1992, writes the author. But in sexual matters, many feminists—including icon Gloria Steinem—argued for a liberal, celebratory view of workplace sex, including sex between individuals of vastly unequal power—such as Bill Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. By defending her husband, Hillary Clinton herself, purportedly a human rights advocate, “got to decide when the women in her husband’s sphere were political subjects, with human rights.” The public conversation over sexual harassment was ignited by websites like Bitch, Feministing, and Salon’s Broadsheet and by the media’s coverage of issues such as date rape, the legal meaning of “consent,” and suits against prominent and powerful men. Hashtag activism, Hirshman asserts, allows women to be “literally inventors of their own empowerment.”

A brisk, authoritative, and timely history.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-56644-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 13, 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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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