An intriguing memoir that presents an unusual and necessary perspective on sperm donation.



A story of one man’s discovery of his donor-conceived origin, put into historical context.

Boni, the author of All Hands on Deck (2015) and retired after a long career in the tech industry,offers readers a memoir combined with a short account of artificial insemination’s long history. First and foremost, however, it’s a book about biology and identity. It begins with the author’s finding out at age 49 that his deceased father, whom he loved dearly, was not, in fact, his biological parent. Following this revelation, Boni spent the next 20-plus years working through his mother’s dissembling about his beginnings and, with the help of the Boston Public Library and Harvard Medical School Library, unraveling a mystery. Along the way, he describes the difference that the advent of the internet made in his research and discusses the promises and limitations of services such as 23andMe and In the end, Boni learns the identities of his biological father and other relations. In addition, the book offers a thoughtful and well-researched look at sperm donation. For much of its history, the author notes, the practice was likened to adultery and involved a lot of secrecy as a result. The author provides readers with a clear picture of that history, which goes back surprisingly far; however, his mention of how it brought Queen Isabella to the throne glosses over her very mixed legacy. Some of the best parts of the book bring out unexpected connections between the historical and the personal; for example, it details the role of John Rock, a fertility specialist who was behind the creation of the birth control pill, in helping couples who wanted biological children and also reveals that he was Boni’s parents’ fertility doctor. At the end, the author includes an essay about his research and offers additional historical observations as well as a template for a donor-conceived person’s bill of rights.

An intriguing memoir that presents an unusual and necessary perspective on sperm donation.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1626349070

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2021

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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