Energetic music analysis that’s both celebratory and unusually honest.




The history of rap music, told against the backdrop of race relations in post–civil rights America.

The story of this powerfully influential and yet surprisingly little-understood American musical genre has been told several times in the past few years; there would seem little need for yet one more account. Journalist Reeves’s first book more than makes the case for its necessity, however, even if the going is rocky at times. Couched in the lively prose of a cultural reporter, his thesis is that generations with little direct connection to the civil-rights or black-power eras find in rap culture “the popular voice of America’s black, brown, and white underclass. (Those huddled masses yearning to breathe free and, one day, [be] rich enough to drive off in a Bentley.)” To illustrate this idea, Reeves takes readers through a muscular narrative of rap music that gets more done by leapfrogging from one milestone to the next, avoiding the risk of spreading itself thin by attempting to be definitive. Each chapter places a particular artist or group in the context of what was happening simultaneously in racial politics, whether it was the assault on black teenagers at Howard Beach that inspired Run-D.M.C. or the Million Man March with Tupac Shakur. This format forces Reeves to make some rather abrupt transitions, segueing from a vibrant take on the factors that contributed to the rise and fall of a particular rap icon to a racially tinged news development that doesn’t always relate. He has clearly done more research on the music side; his chapter on the psychology of Public Enemy is especially on-target. His attempt to suss out what exactly rap means in the modern black community is incisive and hopeful without succumbing to the hyperbolic claims common to music journalists.

Energetic music analysis that’s both celebratory and unusually honest.

Pub Date: March 26, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-571-21140-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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


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


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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