An engaging read and an enticing peek into the secret lives of two celebrated families.




A fascinating, if sometimes scattershot, memoir detailing the author’s life in a dysfunctional family.

Burlingham’s (The Starlings in London, 2016) life history is complicated. Now in her fourth marriage (this time to her college sweetheart), she reflects on the combination of forces that resulted in so much turmoil. She is the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Lewis Tiffany, “maker of silver and fine jewelry,” the great-granddaughter of Louis Comfort Tiffany, “the creator of Tiffany glass,” and the granddaughter of Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham, disciple and companion of Anna Freud. Grandmother Dorothy turned her back on the glamorous Tiffany lifestyle—and the dark outbursts of her father’s rages—when she married surgeon Robert Burlingham. Unfortunately, Robert was bipolar, and his manic periods terrified Dorothy. Four children later, she packed up her brood, left America, and headed to Vienna, undertaking psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud and placing her two oldest children (including the author’s father) in analysis with Sigmund’s daughter, Anna. Dorothy’s close friendship with Anna became a dominating, and much resented, factor during Burlingham’s formative years. When the Freuds moved to London in 1938, Dorothy followed, eventually moving in with Anna. The author was born and raised in America, but she, her parents (Bob and Rigmor Burlingham), and four siblings moved to London for six years in 1957. Her father had suffered a mental breakdown and took his family with him when he returned to Anna to resume lifelong psychoanalysis. The memoir whiplashes back and forth in time as Burlingham alternates between chronological storytelling about her ancestors and vignettes from her own childhood and adolescence. The jumps can be a bit jarring, but they present short events that effectively serve to illustrate, rather than directly state, the frustrations, loneliness, and considerable anger Burlingham experienced as she sought attention and approval from a father who was emotionally unavailable. Readers may agree with the author’s negative assessment of endless psychoanalysis—especially given the bizarre dynamic of her father receiving treatment from his mother’s companion. These two women were far closer to him than were his own children. Ironically, the memoir itself reads much like the author’s own passage through a long psychoanalytic tunnel. She did get one thing from her Tiffany heritage: her father shared with her an appreciation of beautiful precious and, especially, semiprecious stones. She uses them as an interesting literary device to introduce different periods and people in her life. Expressive prose eases readers through a very personal exploration of the underbelly of a complex family: “I never went with [my father] on his solitary walks. Alone, he ambled along the chilly shoreline, especially on sunny days when light shone through the wet stones, revealing their yellow-orange to reddish-brown to rich red tones.” Photos are included.

An engaging read and an enticing peek into the secret lives of two celebrated families.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 212

Publisher: The Amber Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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 clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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