A fiery memoir/manifesto by an athlete with his heart in the right place.

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THINGS THAT MAKE WHITE PEOPLE UNCOMFORTABLE

An outspoken activist athlete practically dares readers to think of professional football and its players in the same way again after finishing this book.

To say that Bennett, who co-authored this book with activist-minded Nation sports editor Zirin, has a chip on his shoulder would be an understatement. He was born to a teenage mother and raised by his father with his brother Martellus, also an outspoken pro football player. After the family split and he finished his college career at Texas A&M, he went undrafted by the NFL because he wasn’t considered “coachable”—i.e., he thought too independently and spoke his mind. He calls the NCAA “a gangster operation, a shakedown, and a system that works for everyone but the so-called student-athletes.” He notes how his brother has called the NFL “ 'Niggas For Lease’—and that’s the most brutally honest thing I’ve ever heard”—later, though, he engages in a nuanced analysis of that hateful epithet and its variations. He compares the dehumanizing flesh market of the NFL combine to “slave auctions,” staunchly defends Colin Kaepernick as an athletic hero, and makes an impassioned defense for taking a knee or locking arms during the national anthem. In places, the book reads like the author is trying to be as provocative as possible, but he ultimately shows a commendable seriousness of purpose, providing a call to arms to other pro athletes to use their platforms for cultural responsibility and to fans to understand the human dimension of the NFL and the price paid for the on-field violence that serves as their entertainment. Bennett is particularly incisive on branding and on the conditional nature of fandom: “I’ll be a football player for just a few more years,” he writes, “but I’ll be Black forever.” He ends on a moving note of reconciliation, as he bridges the gulf with his birth mother and tries to get his father, stepmother, and brother to do the same.

A fiery memoir/manifesto by an athlete with his heart in the right place.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60846-893-5

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Haymarket

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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