A sharp, timely collection of essays.

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DON'T CALL ME PRINCESS

ESSAYS ON GIRLS, WOMEN, SEX AND LIFE

A feminist journalist gathers some of her most influential pieces.

New York Times Magazine contributing writer Orenstein (Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, 2016, etc.) came to journalism believing that individual stories—especially those about girls and women—could “illuminate something universal [and] essential about our time.” Here, she collects articles written over a distinguished career spanning more than 30 years. The author groups her work into four themed sections. The first presents profiles of well-known women such as Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan. Both became the driving forces behind Ms. magazine, which they saw gutted and remade over the decades by a sexist, profit-driven media industry. Orenstein also covers lesser-known figures such as the “worldly and independent” feminist Japanese journalist Atsuko Chiba and the controversial graphic artist Phoebe Gloeckner, whose work about teenage sexuality is as unique as it is disturbing. In the second section, Orenstein covers topics related to female corporeality. These articles are among the most personal in the book. They include a piece comprised entirely of diary entries that Orenstein wrote during a battle with breast cancer and a memoir-style reflection about her post-cancer experiences with miscarriage. In the third section, the author tackles modern motherhood. She observes that working mothers still struggle with critical attitudes toward a life split between parenting and a career. Advances in bio-technology have “shattered conventional definitions of ‘parent,’ ” further complicating notions of what constitutes a “mother.” The last section of the book contains Orenstein’s musings on girlhood in America. In one piece she profiles two teenage girls: one poor and the other middle class. Their one commonality was feeling alone and misunderstood in a system hostile to them and their needs. In another, the author discusses the way girls must navigate a “princess culture” that infantilizes notions of “girl power” as it sexualizes it. Compelling and intelligent, Orenstein’s book offers a powerful vision of the challenges of modern womanhood and of what it means to be female in 21st-century America.

A sharp, timely collection of essays.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-268890-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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