An informative jumping-off point for further investigation.

READ REVIEW

TOMBOY

THE SURPRISING HISTORY AND FUTURE OF GIRLS WHO DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

An analysis of girls who identify as “tomboys” and how the designation has changed over time.

For decades, girls who had short hair, preferred to wear pants rather than dresses, and liked to do “boy” things like climb trees or play sports were often called “tomboys,” a term that disappeared once the girl reached puberty and “outgrew” it. Though the name is still widely used, journalist and essayist Davis, who has contributed to the New York Times, the Guardian, and other publications, explores the (in)adequacy of the word to cover the spectrum of gender and sexual identities finding expression today. In this meandering journey through the history and current state of “tomboyism,” some of the author’s pressing concerns include the pinkification of everything remotely feminine and the extreme boy-girl separation of toys and children’s products based on algorithms that instantly promote specific items tailored by gender. Davis scrutinizes the area surrounding gender identity vs. sexuality, especially in the chapter titled “War of the Words: Tomboy or Trans Boy?” She also considers the role of socio-economic status in the application of many of these designations. In addition to citing research into a variety of relevant topics, Davis includes personal stories of women who were considered tomboys as children who have since been able to find a comfortable place on the wide spectrum that exists today. “I think it’s important for parents, and kids,” she writes, “to understand how sex, gender, and sexuality have been understood in different eras, to see that the way we are experiencing and understanding them now is part of the evolution, and that we’ve still got so much more to learn.” There is still much to learn, and though Davis could have gone more in-depth in some areas, readers will find this a good place to start their education.

An informative jumping-off point for further investigation.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45831-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hachette Go

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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