An engrossing, poignant, and often disturbing adventure; loaded with historical and cultural details about the Korean...

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STEALING CINDERELLA

HOW I BECAME AN INTERNATIONAL FUGITIVE FOR LOVE

A dystopian novelist turns his attention to a memoir, recounting the 18 months he lived in South Korea.

In 1993, 23-year-old University of Iowa graduate Diehl (The Book of Wanda, 2018, etc.) accepted a position at SNM Academy in Taegu (now known as Daegu), South Korea, teaching English to adults. SNM had nine levels of classes, 101 through 109. There was also a Junior Academy for younger students. At the junior school, the author met Jennifer, a beautiful, young Korean woman who captured his heart. She was a Taegu native teaching English there. Their relationship—first one of friendship, then love—broke Korean social norms and put them in great danger. She was the middle child and, worse, the second daughter of a wealthy, professional family. “I was a disappointment to them the day I was born,” she told Diehl. Within the family, her needs were subservient to those of her older sister and younger brother. Combining the drama and excitement of a novel with some sociological commentary, the author offers both a tender love story and an eye-opening depiction of Korean values, restrictions, and strengths in the early ’90s. As a white man, he was viewed with suspicion, which turned into outright hostility whenever he was seen walking or dining with Jennifer. Through re-creations of classroom dialogue with his most advanced students, the 109s, Diehl deftly highlights various aspects of Korean social stratification. One student explained: “Men are different. To men, most important is respect. Way to get respect is to be a manager. When every man is manager and every woman is mother, then everyone is happy.” After Jennifer’s parents discovered she was dating an American, threatening to disgrace the family, they beat her mercilessly. Here the narrative turns from being intriguing and at times lighthearted to gripping, as under the cover of darkness and with contrived documentation, the couple fled to Hong Kong and later the United States.

An engrossing, poignant, and often disturbing adventure; loaded with historical and cultural details about the Korean Peninsula.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Fencetree Press

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2019

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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