If you like Anita Diamant and Vanessa Ochs, you may be tempted to pick up this book. But don’t—it’ll disappoint you.

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AFTER THE APPLE

WOMEN IN THE BIBLE: TIMELESS STORIES OF LOVE, LUST, AND LONGING

A ho-hum investigation of the Bible’s leading ladies.

The Bible often says little about women, or says it tersely—not indicating, for example, how a woman might have felt about having her only son nearly sacrificed. There’s now something of a cottage-industry in retelling these women’s stories, filling in the gaps, doing, if you will, modern-day Midrash.Here, marriage counselor and psychoanalyst Rosenblatt offers reflections on 17 women from Hebrew Scripture, all cast in an encouraging second-wave-feminist light. Think the Matriarchs are doormats? Think again—they’re crafty, wise women, keeping their wits about them to promote their own interests and those of their households. Eve (who does appear, despite the book’s title) is a “trailblazer,” Delilah independent and resourceful. Abigail, one of King David’s wives, thinks being a woman is really cool, as does the Queen of Sheba. Bathsheba, another Mrs. David, is courageous and strong. In the main, Rosenblatt’s readings tend toward the predictable, and they’re more simplistic than they might have been had the author made fuller use of the treasures of rabbinic lore on these women. Unfortunately, neither is there much literary flair in evidence—and too-clever asides can leave you cringing (after musing, in the chapter on the Song of Songs, that we moderns know less about sex and intimacy than our grandparents, Rosenblatt continues with, “Now that we’ve broken through the crass ceiling . . . ”). Efforts to give advice about marriage as gleaned from the biblical stories result mainly in banalities. In a chapter on Bathsheba, for example, Rosenblatt councils husbands and wives not to break up a marriage over a one-night stand, and Adam and Eve lead readers to realize that “Spouses in a healthy. . . relationship praise and appreciate the strengths. . . of their mates.”

If you like Anita Diamant and Vanessa Ochs, you may be tempted to pick up this book. But don’t—it’ll disappoint you.

Pub Date: March 22, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-6908-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

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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