An engaging tale of the lifestyles of the rich-and-felonious parents of college-bound students.



A Fast Company senior writer gives a lively, soap-operatic account of the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal that led to charges against more than 50 celebrities and other high rollers.

Fans of Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin who hope to see the stars vindicated will have to wait for another book. LaPorte suggests that the Hollywood power players were easy marks for the independent college counselor William “Rick” Singer, who used fake athletic profiles, bribery, and other tactics to get students into universities such as Yale, Georgetown, and USC. The actors and their ultrarich peers moved in private school circles that were “cesspools of insecurity about parenting”: “These were families who had been hiring tutors and outsourcing instruction in so many subjects for so long—the personal lacrosse coach, the Spanish tutor—parents were often loath to trust themselves when it came to advising their children.” Adding to parental anxieties were changing expectations at colleges, including that schools that once favored students with well-rounded portfolios have come to prefer a “pointy” applicant who “takes his or her singular passion and turbocharges it in creative ways.” Singer exploited status-conscious parents’ fears by claiming he could “guarantee” admission to high-prestige schools through a “side door,” which involved crimes such as bribing coaches and laundering money through his private “charity.” He also falsified applications after persuading students to give him their passwords to the Common App site and paid someone to take their SATs and ACTs at venues run by people he’d paid off. Though the narrative tone is largely gossipy, LaPorte ably covers all the aspects of the scandal, including the unique atmosphere of LA, where “extreme wealth and ambition collide, undercut by a shamelessly transactional at­titude toward business.” Her fast-paced book has much to interest parents whose offspring are aiming for top-tier colleges.

An engaging tale of the lifestyles of the rich-and-felonious parents of college-bound students.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1709-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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


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: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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