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LEONOR

THE STORY OF A LOST CHILDHOOD

Visceral reporting of Colombia drug gang trauma by a committed journalist.

A Colombian journalist tracks the traumatic life of a former teenage soldier in a rural guerrilla group.

In 2016, the Colombian government negotiated a truce with the guerrilla group called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Nonetheless, the menacing activities of drug-trafficking gangs has not ceased in that beleaguered nation. Delgado-Kling, a journalist who grew up in a privileged household in Bogotá, recounts the odd intersection of her own life and that of Leonor, a poor farmer’s daughter who was caught up in the drug wars in the mid-1990s. As a child of prominent officials, the author was sent to Canada to be educated due to the threats of violence and kidnapping. “Between 1970 and 2013,” she writes, “39,058 people were kidnapped. Many cases were not reported for fear of retribution from the captors.” Delgado-Kling never traveled in Colombia without a bodyguard—even as a journalist, when she first met Leonor after she’d been freed from FARC captivity at age 17. Slowly, the two became friends. During numerous exchanges over the course of nearly two decades, Leonor shared her story: the family’s forced move to Mocoa from their farm due to FARC threats; numerous incidents of sexual assault; her brother’s work as a drug mule; her sister’s brutal murder, after which her body was tossed into the street; the lure into FARC, which served first as a haven but soon became a nightmare, with Leonor enduring sexual slavery under a man 34 years her senior; and her eventual capture by government troops and rehabilitation over many years. In the end, Leonor’s story has no neat resolution, but Delgado-Kling never wavers in her devastating portrait of unspeakable suffering. The author offers a helpful bibliography for further reading about the fraught situation in Colombia.

Visceral reporting of Colombia drug gang trauma by a committed journalist.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2024

ISBN: 9781682194478

Page Count: 250

Publisher: OR Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

Awards & Accolades

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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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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