An astute, lucid examination of an incendiary issue.



A poet responds to troubling questions about authorship and identity.

Rekdal, a literature professor, Guggenheim fellow, award-winning poet laureate of Utah, and “mixed-race person,” responds to the concerns of an imagined student in six cogent, thoughtful letters about the vexed problem of cultural appropriation. “When we write in the voice of people unlike ourselves,” she asks, “what do we risk besides the possibility of getting certain facts, histories, and perspectives wrong?” Rekdal makes the useful distinction between adaptation—refashioning facets of a work—and appropriation, writing about or through the lives of others who do not share the author’s group identity. Such works, critics object, “traffic in stereotypes that link bodily and cultural difference with innate physical and mental characteristics.” Yet, writes the author, “to insist that a writer must be from the same group identity as the voice of the author has a dangerous flip side to it: while it warns off writers from blithely taking on subject matters outside their own experience, it also implicitly warns writers within the same group identity that an authentic experience of that identity does exist—to the group at least—and can and may be policed from within.” Besides citing many recent theorists—e.g., Toni Morrison, Ibram X. Kendi, and Claudia Rankine—Rekdal analyzes poems, fiction, and art, mostly 20th and 21st century, including William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner and Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt. She discusses publishing policy that promotes “marketplace colonialism” and the connection of appropriation to “cultural privilege, profit, and self-aggrandizement.” Rekdal’s sophisticated analysis reveals a generous respect for the creative process: “I don’t believe that an artist writing outside her subject position can only write into racist stereotypes,” she asserts. Authors should not be required to produce “socially approved depictions of race”; appropriation, she adds, may help us “to critique the very systems that fail to represent us.”

An astute, lucid examination of an incendiary issue.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00358-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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