Readers who come to share Mann’s understanding could find the book useful, or at least a brief diversion from their boring...




Studying a mood that “pops up in every facet of existence, from work to love to war.”

Mann likely won’t mind if you find her debut book a little boring; in fact, she’ll likely expect it. Her engaging, essayistic examination underscores boredom’s pervasiveness, how most people find themselves bored by most things—work most of all. Recognizing her own tendencies toward boredom and the restlessness that often accompanies it, she decided to start exploring just what boredom is, why it is so common, and what, if any, purpose it serves. She finds she is not alone: “Boredom in 2015 was becoming something of a hot topic, an old feeling made new by media attention, and here we were at the very cusp of a trend,” she writes of attending a sold-out event called “Bored and Brilliant.” (Mann also learned about international conferences on the topic, but why spend the money to travel to Poland when there’s so much boredom to study near home in Manhattan?) The author attended a sex-toy party for some insight on how to deal with boredom in bed or with monogamy in general. She explores how some consider travel an antidote for boredom, with a whole industry of tourism catering to that need. She writes of the “restless violence” to which teenage boys in particular are prone as they try to break the cycle (also termed “boredom-induced violence”) and the deep depression into which some can descend, with boredom as a trigger or at least an early warning sign. She writes of boredom as a part of the creative process. Mostly, she distracts herself with the project, but even she can become bored with the study of boredom, recognizing the penchant that sparked her interest in the first place. She concludes that “the things I learned about boredom, and the ways I learned to talk about it, actually proved useful.”

Readers who come to share Mann’s understanding could find the book useful, or at least a brief diversion from their boring lives.

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-53584-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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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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