Unique, imaginative, and unnerving, this is travel literature with a magical realist touch.

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FALSE CALM

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE GHOST TOWNS OF PATAGONIA

Modern life in the barren foothills of South America, as told by a journalist working from a deeply subconscious perspective.

Possession—both physical and literary—is at the heart of this newly translated 2005 work by Argentinean author Cristoff. Her place is Patagonia, the storied, once-thriving region located in both Argentina and Chile, where the end of the 1990s oil boom left a trickle-down effect of economic misery. Her approach is to become a ghost, to inhabit the lives of the people left behind, to see through their eyes an upended world in which mental illness, suicide, and orphans have become the norm. “The stories came to me,” she writes, “the atmosphere used me as a ventriloquist.” Style is perfectly suited to subject; she travels in a land where real meets surreal and curses, superstition, myth, and mysticism are woven into the fabric of everyday life. We meet Leon, a formerly prosperous merchant owner who now deals with schizophrenia and his wife’s tuberculosis, which may have been caused by environmental contamination. “But anyway, here, where there are more dogs than people, who’s going to take the trouble to think about citizens and their rights. They barely even admit that there are people,” writes Cristoff. There is also Francisco, a former pilot who now does little more than putter around in his shop. The longest and most impressive story belongs to Martina, whose life of suicide attempts and abuse grows to a quietly powerful conclusion when she meets the father who abandoned her. In Las Heras, the town that “defined Patagonia as a place akin to the netherworld,” a rash of teen suicides puts Cristoff in touch with Sandra, a psychic who becomes increasingly lost in her own troubled world.

Unique, imaginative, and unnerving, this is travel literature with a magical realist touch.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945492-14-3

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Transit Books

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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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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