A well-written commentary on one of the most pressing social issues of our time.

FOR ALL THE PEOPLE

REDEEMING THE BROKEN PROMISES OF MODERN MEDIA AND RECLAIMING OUR CIVIC LIFE

A former Obama strategist reflects on the state of modern media.

In the book’s introduction, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick describes Slaby as “one of the geniuses behind” President Barack Obama’s “then-revolutionary digital [campaign] strategy.” As the Obama campaign’s deputy digital director in 2008 and chief integration and innovation officer in 2012, Slaby oversaw “dozens of digital firsts” by a presidential candidate, including the first Facebook and Twitter accounts. Slaby, at the forefront of digital politics, is uniquely positioned to provide insights into the shifting landscape of media in the 21st century, which not only propelled Obama into office, but also spawned the tea party movement, exacerbated political divisions, and facilitated the mass dissemination of disinformation. Combining erudite analyses of social theories, such as Jurgen Habermas’ notion of the public sphere, with an accessible, occasionally witty, writing style, the author emphasizes the major paradox of today’s media systems and technologies that “are ostensibly meant to connect us” yet excel at providing “increasingly isolated sets of information.” After providing a convincing narrative on “Broken Promises” of modern media, where “popularity masquerades as credibility, and credibility seems like a function of little more than repetition,” the second half of the book provides practical solutions to reform both the media we consume as well as American civic life in general. A protégé of Obama, Slaby is relentlessly optimistic even while acknowledging the contemporary cesspool of new media platforms and the failures of traditional media outlets, and the book successfully blends sophisticated analysis with an uplifting, engaging message. Though some may question the author’s confidence in the general public’s ability to discern fact from fiction, they will still find plenty of pragmatic solutions.

A well-written commentary on one of the most pressing social issues of our time.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63331-051-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Disruption Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2021

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Consistently illuminating, unabashedly ferocious writing.

GIRLHOOD

An acclaimed nonfiction writer gathers essays embracing the pleasure, pain, and power of growing up as a girl and woman.

In her latest powerful personal and cultural examination, Febos interrogates the complexities of feminism and the "darkness" that has defined much of her life and career. In "Kettle Holes," she describes how experiences of humiliation at the hands of a boy she loved helped shape some of the pleasure she later found working as a dominatrix (an experience she vividly recounted in her 2010 book, Whip Smart). As she fearlessly plumbed the depths of her precocious sexuality in private, she watched in dismay as patriarchal society transformed her into a "passive thing.” In "Wild America," the author delves into body-shaming issues, recounting how, during adolescence, self-hatred manifested as a desire to physically erase herself and her "gigantic" hands. Only later, in the love she found with a lesbian partner, did she finally appreciate the pleasure her hands could give her and others. Febos goes on to explore the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships in "Thesmophoria,” writing about the suffering she brought to her mother through lies and omissions about clandestine—and sometimes dangerous—sexual experiments and youthful flirtations with crystal meth and heroin. Their relationship was based on the "ritual violence" that informed the Persephone/Demeter dyad, in which the daughter alternately brought both pain and joy to her mother. "Intrusions" considers how patriarchy transforms violence against women into narratives of courtship that pervert the meaning of love. In "Thank You for Taking Care of Yourself," Febos memorably demonstrates how the simple act of platonic touching can be transformed into a psychosexual minefield for women. Profound and gloriously provocative, this book—a perfect follow-up to her equally visceral previous memoir, Abandon Me (2017)—transforms the wounds and scars of lived female experience into an occasion for self-understanding that is both honest and lyrical.

Consistently illuminating, unabashedly ferocious writing.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-252-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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