Puzzle of Fate

IS YOUR FATE PREDETERMINED OR CAN YOU CHANGE IT?

Kamarei explores a scientific basis for fate in this debut work of nonfiction.

Part pop-science inquiry, part self-help guide, this book seeks to determine whether there is such a thing as personal fate—and if it is within people’s power to alter it. Through original investigation and research into the works of others, Kamarei has synthesized what science has taught the world so far: “I did not actually discover any NEW factor about fate. Instead, I pinpointed, elaborated and classified all factors and subfactors that contribute to building and shaping our fate in a systematic way.” The factors break down into six groups. Some are outside of the individual’s sphere of influence (genetics, prenatal development, birth conditions), while others are partially (environment, chance) or firmly (freely made decisions) within people’s control. By better understanding what aspects of life are within one’s power or outside of it, Kamarei argues that readers can work to bend their fates toward their own preferred outcomes, a state that the author terms an individual’s “Unique Summit.” One’s Unique Summit is reached via finding an individual balance of tangible circumstances (“Quality of Life”) and intangible ones (“Happiness”). Jargon aside, the book is less a belief system and more a mélange of statistics and genetic factoids that explain much of life’s unpleasantness, from the likelihood that twins will share various handicaps to the conditions that affect IQ to a ranked list of the most common causes of divorce. Kamarei writes in a clear, upbeat prose that lends every sentence a sense of cheerful vitality. So much of people’s fates (according to the author’s model) is determined before they are out of infancy that the book arguably serves as a more useful primer for how people should raise future children than how to fix their own lives. Even so, the author eagerly points out those places where agency is possible. Readers looking for a motivational work that is heavier on science than on aphorisms (though there are some of those as well) may find this volume appealing. If nothing else, it succeeds in making fate a little less frightening.

Pub Date: May 21, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 330

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 8, 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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

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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