Sharp, brazen, and undeniably controversial.

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THE PROBLEM WITH EVERYTHING

MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE NEW CULTURE WARS

A sweeping critique of the “wokescenti.”

Award-winning essayist, memoirist, and novelist Daum (The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, 2014, etc.), recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, takes on fourth-wave feminism, victimhood, identity politics, #MeToo, social media, ideological warfare on college campuses, and assorted other irritants in a culture that is “effectively mentally ill.” Social media, asserts the author, creates an echo chamber where people lie to one another and eagerly wait for friends to lie back. “I am convinced,” she writes, “the culture is effectively being held hostage by its own hyperbole. So enthralled with our outrage at the extremes, we’ve forgotten that most of the world exists in the mostly unobjectionable middle.” Examining displays of outrage as public performance, she writes that “the search for grievance has become a kind of political obligation, an activist gesture.” Accusations of sexism, sexual harassment, or assault, she believes, foster women’s image of themselves as victims rather than individuals “capable of making mistakes”; in making such accusations, women “literally hand men their own power.” Rather than see the gender wage gap as evidence of sexism, Daum suggests “that there are biological differences between male and female brains that can influence women’s professional decisions.” She also criticizes “the left-leaning chatterati” who praised Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as engaging in “self-congratulatory reverence,” wondering “if my white friends and colleagues who venerated Coates actually liked his work or just liked the idea of liking it.” This suspicion of other people’s authenticity underlies much of the book: Daum admits that when she was an undergraduate in the midst of student uprisings, she “often felt like I was impersonating a college student…I had a hard time believing other people were actually for real.” Now middle-aged, divorced, childless by choice, and feeling increasingly marginal, the author is dismayed by those whose energetic engagement with social and cultural problems fuels “the exquisite lie of our own relevance.”

Sharp, brazen, and undeniably controversial.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982129-33-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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