Though she has a superb story, Solinger never quite finds the voice with which to tell it. Despite these rough edges, well...



Solinger's (Wake Up, Little Susie, 1992) biography of abortionist Ruth Barnett introduces us to a compelling character and to the underdocumented history of illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade.

Between 1918 and 1968, Ruth Barnett performed some 40,000 abortions in Portland, Oreg. Her life story reveals as simplistic the popular stereotype of illegal abortionists as unscrupulous, predatory opportunists indifferent to women's health and safety. Although Barnett lived well and flamboyantly, she was also motivated by a profound desire to help those in need. All her life, she acknowledged that her work was illegal but insisted that abortion should be a woman's personal decision. Indeed, she could not turn down women and girls who had no other options. Barnett's skills—she never lost a patient, and medical complications from her operations were extremely rare—were well-known to doctors throughout the Northwest, who frequently referred patients to her, and her antiseptic offices with up-to-date-equipment were hardly the dangerous, infection-ridden sites of current "back-alley'' mythology (though such outfits certainly did exist). Solinger manages to thoroughly engage the reader in Barnett's life without excessively lionizing her or retreating into revisionist polemics. This groundbreaking work should encourage further research on—and popular interest in—the pre-Roe abortionists. Unfortunately, Solinger's prose is inconsistent: at times too dry, at times overwritten and melodramatic. A plethora of mixed metaphors muddy the text, and awkward phrasing disrupts the narrative throughout.

Though she has a superb story, Solinger never quite finds the voice with which to tell it. Despite these rough edges, well worth the attention of anyone interested in the history of women's reproductive rights.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 1994

ISBN: 0-02-929865-2

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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