An essential addition to the literature about adoption, reflecting a viewpoint that is sorely lacking.

MOTHERHOOD SO WHITE

A MEMOIR OF RACE, GENDER, AND PARENTING IN AMERICA

What does it mean to be a single black mother in America?

In her debut memoir, Austin (Abandon, 1996, etc.) examines what it means to legally adopt a black child through the foster care system as a single black woman. The book opens with the author taking her 5-year-old adopted son, August, to a Black Lives Matter rally “just outside the Beverly Hills hub,” where they live. Austin palpably recounts the urgency of this current moment, especially regarding the constant possibility of lethal danger for black people in America. As she notes, innocence is a currency that black children cannot afford. Austin explores how this has been a recurrent theme throughout American history, one that has always created deep trauma within the black community and family structure. She seamlessly weaves her adoption story into discussions of her ideas of motherhood, which are particularly relevant because she was raised by her grandparents after being abandoned by her own birth mother. Austin challenges readers to question the ideal of motherhood as being synonymous with whiteness. Along the way, she tackles the inherent sexism, classism, and racism within the adoption system and the broader community, and she forcefully pushes back against the vilification of the single black mother and the idea of the unwanted black child in the adoption system. Austin also addresses the lack of literary work focused on stories of black motherhood in general and black adoption in particular. During her research, much of what she found centered on white adoption and ignored her unique challenges. Austin closes with first-person interviews with other black mothers who share their individual parenting journeys, helping to further bolster the author’s argument that black motherhood is not monolithic.

An essential addition to the literature about adoption, reflecting a viewpoint that is sorely lacking.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7901-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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