A thoughtful analysis of America's uneasy relationship with foreignness.

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BARBARIAN VIRTUES

THE UNITED STATES ENCOUNTERS FOREIGN PEOPLE AT HOME AND ABROAD, 1876-1917

Jacobson (American Studies/Yale) deftly sketches the often-xenophobic US relationship with foreign peoples as it evolved through history, and the sense of a distinctive American nationhood as it developed during an age of massive immigration at home and empire-building abroad.

Theodore Roosevelt was no sentimentalist about the decline of Native American `savages.` Yet, in 1899, he decried the disappearance of `barbarian virtues` in an American civilization he saw as increasingly effete. Jacobson takes this as his text, seeing Roosevelt's ironic blend of smug contempt for foreign cultures and self-doubt regarding his own as emblematic of the US approach to foreigners during its `age of empire.` The author first looks at the America's economic relationship to foreign peoples, both as markets for American goods abroad and as workers at home: Americans identified foreign consumers as inferior precisely because their dependence on them, while immigrants, needed for America's industrial labor force, were simultaneously wooed and resented. In both cases, Jacobson argues, America's very dependence on foreigners fueled resentment and contempt of them. He then turns to American perceptions of foreigners, both in popular literature and in the development of the nascent social sciences: literature reinforced notions of American cultural progress and foreign inferiority, while scientific work in psychology and anthropology, shaped and driven by chauvinist and nativist thinking, supplied theories that substantiated white Americans' sense of racial and cultural superiority. Finally, Jacobson shows the political consequences of this thinking: political controversy surrounded America's acceptance of `un-American,` often politically radical foreigners as future citizens, and sanguinary imperialist wars ensued in Latin America and the Philippines. Jacobson sees enduring lessons in America's experience from this period, arguing that the US survived the diversity from immigration previously and will again, and that it should not forget its imperialist legacy when it intervenes in global affairs.

A thoughtful analysis of America's uneasy relationship with foreignness.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8090-2808-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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