A rich, informative text highlighting Chumash ingenuity in rebuilding a long-oppressed culture.

Chumash Renaissance


In his ethnographic text, Gelles (Anthropology/Univ. of California, Water and Power in Highland Peru, 2000, etc.) explores the impact of casino revenues on revitalizing Native American culture in central California.

From the late 18th century through the 1950s, the Chumash, a Native American tribe based in the Santa Ynez Valley, were subjugated by three waves of colonization, each having detrimental effects on their culture and population. First, under Spanish rule, the Chumash people were forced to build mission properties, which were relied on by “the predatory priests, soldiers, local ranchers, and…the colonial system in general.” When the United States annexed California in the mid-1800s, the few remaining Chumash were forced from the mission property and made to settle at Zanja de Cota, which was later established as the Santa Ynez Reservation. The car culture of the 1950s brought tourism to the valley, resulting in a population boom consisting of “wealthy celebrities and ranchers to poor Latino farmhands and white service sector workers.” Without gas, potable water and electricity through the 1960s, the reservation “was known as a fairly lawless place, with a high rate of alcoholism…and with many residents on welfare.” Chumash children, often barred from educational advancement, were placed in special education programs at Santa Ynez Union High School for no reason other than their heritage. Yet the ’60s also saw a re-emergence of Chumash culture, a process initiated through studying the works of anthropologist J.P. Harrington, who, in the early 20th century, worked with Chumash culture-bearer Maria Solares in collecting thousands of pages of text regarding tribe history, language and religious practices. In the mid-’90s, a casino opened on the reservation, revenues from which have been used to re-establish Chumash culture. For example, the Tribal Hall was built in 2002 as the reservation’s government center and education department. The book concludes by examining the possibility of reconciliation between the Chumash and the Santa Ynez Valley community. Gelles asserts “critics should acknowledge that [the casino] has brought many benefits, not just for the Chumash, but for the community as a whole,” and in order “to go beyond stereotypes about American Indians, people…need to learn about native relationships with the state.” Gelles provides great balance by varying the narrative’s voice and perspective when detailing conflicts between the Chumash and Valley residents. However, he rarely asserts himself within the work, only vaguely outlining his role within the tribe, thus distancing himself from the many opinions at play. Overall, Gelles succeeds in objectively examining the complex sociopolitical issue.

A rich, informative text highlighting Chumash ingenuity in rebuilding a long-oppressed culture. 

Pub Date: May 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481176149

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2013

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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