WHAT'S GOING ON by Nathan McCall

WHAT'S GOING ON

Personal Essays

KIRKUS REVIEW

 McCall follows up his critically acclaimed autobiography Makes Me Wanna Holler (1994) with this eye-opening collection of personal essays on race and racism in America. One of the principal themes that crops up here, in tones that range from levity to gravity, is that of childhood and parenthood. In the essay entitled ``The Problem with Babies,'' a white toddler who tries to engage McCall in play in a fast-food restaurant is depicted as a sort of adorable predator; the child's ignorance of racial tension between his mother and McCall leads to the conclusion that babies ``don't give a damn about the racial boundaries that grown-ups impose.'' In other pieces, McCall meditates on his son, as he condemns both whites and blacks for the intraracial violence that he states, in no uncertain terms, is destroying the African-American community; he writes of his daughter in an essay in which he confesses to having committed sexual assaults on several women as a young man, not realizing that he wasn't entitled to their favors by virtue of his being male. It is this surprisingly and often disarmingly confessional tone that brings cohesion to these essays. McCall knows his own faults and those of the very community that he defends and of which he is part; he can be slow to admit that those faults include poor family structure and upbringing. He is far quicker to finger white racism as a cause for black suffering, but his strong defense lies in his own experiences. While McCall is reluctant to divorce himself from acceptance of Louis Farrakhan, it is his essay on Muhammad Ali that better depicts a black dissenter as a model human being. Despite some flaws, this is a strong effort from the journalist turned essayist. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-45589-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1997




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