An engrossing and though-provoking blend of religion, philosophy, science, and a quest for the healing properties of human...



A writer offers a philosophical inquiry into humanity’s “old wounds”—and how to overcome them.

McGrath’s slim, decidedly unconventional nonfiction debut seeks to fuse Christian theology, Eastern medicinal philosophy, and some concepts gleaned from the worlds of paleobiology and sociology. The author's quest to delve into the deeper meaning of reality began decades ago on a small farm in Vermont when she suddenly saw an old tree stump as “vibrating energy.” This led to a lifetime of studying both science and spirituality, and in these pages it leads McGrath to speculate on the ultimate origins of humanity’s deep “wound” of being constantly at war with itself in what she refers to as “our frenetic dance with the annihilation of life as we know it on this planet.” The author looks at what she considers the two driving instincts of life on Earth, dominance and nurture. She attempts to map them during the crucial shift primordial humans underwent from hunters to herders, a transformation she considers a warping event for the psyche of the entire species. These speculations are accompanied by some of the book’s most captivating thinking, exploring the prehistoric forces that shaped the development of modern humans. Perspective changed, for example: “Four million years ago, some primates shifted their center of gravity and stood erect….What had been underneath was now in front.” In addition, extensive grooming rituals “demanded an attuned sphere of awareness,” she writes, teaching human ancestors’ hands “to connect with the other in love as acceptance, affection, forgiveness, comfort, and healing.” The enthralling nature of these insights is only slightly marred by some of McGrath’s more controversial claims, whether about the nature of physical reality (“Energy and matter, we now know, are interchangeable”) or her own supposed ability to heal injuries on a cellular level. But in the main, the wide-ranging book’s eloquent intertwining of science and spirituality (“Trees are magnificent manifestations of life dancing with gravity, demonstrating height, balance, symmetry, and strength”) is consistently intriguing.

An engrossing and though-provoking blend of religion, philosophy, science, and a quest for the healing properties of human nature.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982220-65-5

Page Count: 114

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2019

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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