MAY THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN

AN INTIMATE JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF ADOPTION

An absorbing memoir of one birth mother’s experiences, interspersed with an array of narratives, musings, facts, and statistics on the theme of adoption. When Franklin, a literary agent (and a member of the board of directors of the Spence-Chapin adoption agency), became pregnant in 1965, she was a 19-year-old unwed college sophomore. Her family shuffled her off from her home in Virginia to a maternity home in New York City, where relinquishing her baby to adoption was the only option offered her. “We wanted to make right our wrongs and go home,” she writes, but when she gave birth to her son, she was instantly overcome with maternal feelings for him. For years afterward, she suffered feelings of shame, isolation, sadness, and poor self-esteem. The secrecy and silence that cloaked the adoption, contends Franklin, are largely responsible for these feelings. Much of May the Circle Be Unbroken is, in fact, a plea to open adoption records in the US so that searches and reunions between birth parents and adopted children can be facilitated. Searching for and reuniting with their birth parents, states Franklin, helps adoptees attain a sense of wholeness, no matter how well adjusted they are in their adoptive families. Only when Franklin was reunited with her son 27 years later could she begin to recover from the initial trauma or “primal wound” of losing him. Reunion itself, though, is often “an emotional roller coaster” that begins to take on a life of its own. In addition to delicately navigating her relationship with her son, Franklin cautiously establishes a relationship with his adoptive parents, who divorced when he was nine. And Franklin must come to terms with the realization that, although she is her son’s birth mother, the two cannot have the lifelong parenting bond that exists between him and the woman who raised him. A thorough, provocative discourse on just about every aspect of the joys and sorrows of all those involved in the adoption process. (For a look at adoption from the adoptee’s point of view, see Sarah Saffian, Ithaka: A Daughter’s Memoir of Being Found, p. 1365.)

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 1998

ISBN: 0-517-70755-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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