As in nearly all collections, the quality varies, but there are no weak links in this well-curated book.

THE GOOD IMMIGRANT

27 WRITERS REFLECT ON AMERICA

Immigrants offer affecting personal essays about adapting to daily life in the United States while also retaining their identities forged by foreign cultures.

In 2015, editors Shukla (The One Who Wrote Destiny, 2018, etc.) and Suleyman (Outside Looking On, 2014) published a similar book in the U.K. Suleyman has since relocated to New York City and taken charge of this current collection, the title of which plays on the toxic assumption that all immigrants should be perceived as “bad” until they demonstrate otherwise. The editors do not explain how they decided on the order of the essays, but many readers will agree that the first, Porochista Khakpour’s “How to Write Iranian-America, or the Last Essay,” qualifies as both the most inventively written and most memorable. Besides Iran, the other nations in the anthology are spread across the world, from Africa to Asia to Europe to Latin America. The contributors also explore topics around the generalized immigration experiences of both Muslims and Jews. Because some of the essays are ripped from the headlines, Donald Trump’s xenophobia and immigration-related presidential policies figure in, as well. In fact, the fear spawned by the hatred of Trump and the Republican Party is palpable throughout. In that context, “Return to Macondo,” by Puerto Rican writer Susanne Ramírez de Arellano, offers the especially poignant—and angry—perspective of a marginalized woman who “never bought the American Dream. It was a visceral reaction. This dream always had the rank smell of bullshit to me. I didn’t believe it, no matter what new toothpaste or amazing trip to the moon they were selling.” The author biographies at the back of the book will help readers find talented immigrant authors previously unknown to them; some of the more well-known contributors include Khakpour, Alexander Chee, Daniel José Elder, Teju Cole, and Nicole Dennis-Benn.

As in nearly all collections, the quality varies, but there are no weak links in this well-curated book.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-52428-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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