Far from exemplary as a memoir, but Willcox raises important environmental awareness and celebrates Greenpeace exploits,...

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GREENPEACE CAPTAIN

MY ADVENTURES IN PROTECTING THE FUTURE OF OUR PLANET

Capt. Willcox recounts his environmental adventures at sea in this folksy memoir.

Though most adventure stories show the protagonist experiencing a transformation, Willcox remains the same from beginning to end. Adopted early in his life, the author grew up in a radical household, and his parents butted heads with such figures as Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Throughout his early years, Willcox dedicated himself to progressive causes and maritime activities, particularly sailboat racing. After 30 years captaining ships for Greenpeace and battling abusive corporations around the world, the author seems unwavering in his devotion to the planet. Instead of a textured character study, the author rattles off one seafaring tale after another. “I found myself in Peru, walking around on a dead baby whale with a tape measure in my hand,” begins a typical chapter. The prose is a hodgepodge of anecdotes, journal entries, documents, maps, and footnotes, and it is clear that co-author Weiss struggled to wrangle these meandering tales into a coherent book. But unlike the stereotype of the angry and single-minded activist, Willcox seems earnest and good-humored. After sailing more than 400,000 miles of ocean, the author could begin and end his book anywhere, yet he chooses a strong denouement: arrested by Russian authorities, Willcox and his crew were incarcerated for two harrowing months. Conditions in the prison were medieval, and he had no idea whether Vladimir Putin would grant amnesty for the “Arctic 30,” as his colleagues became known. They had to survive by the old Soviet mantra: “Don’t trust. Don’t fear. Don’t beg.” Willcox is a man of action, and his courage is clear, especially when fighting for such a voluntary cause. But a man without flaws makes for dull reading, and his epilogue fizzles.

Far from exemplary as a memoir, but Willcox raises important environmental awareness and celebrates Greenpeace exploits, which should inspire like-minded activists.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07954-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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