CONVERSATIONS

FAMOUS WOMEN SPEAK OUT

A series of short, sometimes revealing celebrity interviews that try to probe beyond the usual “How does it feel to be a star?” material. These 50 interviews are collected from a newspaper column (also called “Conversations”) written for the Boston Globe. The author (Invasions of Privacy: Notes from a Celebrity Journalist, 1984) was a fashion reporter and editor for the Globe when she proposed an interview format that would be “akin to what goes on in a session with a trusted psychiatrist.” She saw it as a form of oral history that would both reveal psychic battles and lend weight to what is ordinarily celebrity ephemera. Her subjects, some no longer so celebrated, range curiously from steamy novelist Jackie Collins to poet Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, Jihan Sadat, and Suzanne Somers. The author’s experiences with a demeaning and chauvinistic father, described in a prologue and epilogue, are used intentionally to make a quick, but powerful connection with women who then reveal aspects of their interior lives, such as pride (Ginger Rogers), “prevailing” (Rosalynn Carter), attitude (Chita Rivera), and being battered (Jake LaMotta’s wife, Vikki). When the author interviewed Nien Cheng, imprisoned and tortured for six and a half years during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Cheng challenged her: “What do you know of prisons?” Christy described her own history of “emotional abuse” and her efforts to break out of an “invisible jail of ignorance.” Cheng bought that (perhaps you had to be there) and, in turn, spoke searingly of physical and mental abuse, isolation, and the qualities that helped her to survive. Each segment is short, introduced with a brief summary of the gist of the conversation and a description of the subject, followed by excerpts from what were clearly much longer tapes. Recycled but occasionally tantalizing sound bites from an eclectic group of accomplished women.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1998

ISBN: 1-57129-061-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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 Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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