A thoughtful, thorough analysis geared toward African-American leaders and educators that offers limited readability for a...

TEACHING THE WORLD TO SHELL PEAS

GOD'S COVENANT WITH SOUL PEOPLE

Former high school math teacher Reverend Rufus Phillips explores the root challenges of African-American’s self-actualization in this blend of memoir and sociological study.

Composed of “case studies” from his public school classroom, Phillips zeros in on two obstacles to academic success for African-Americans, or “soul people,” as he says. One of his conflicts centers on “experiential” rather than “abstract” expression styles. He offers the example of an African-American girl commenting on the weather by saying “It’s cooold outside” rather than “It’s extremely cold.” Another obstacle is a tendency to value the community more than the individual. Consequently, he theorizes, the model of independent success and single-minded competition that drives many Americans does not inspire many black Americans, particularly females. By reframing his pedagogical approach around these observations, Phillips details how he was able to reach certain students who’d appeared to be academically hopeless. Some of what Phillips describes as an African-American student’s dilemma could be said about many young people, across cultures, who flourish when exposed to alternative learning methods and flounder under the static approach of standard public school education. But Phillips goes deeper to show how this alienation takes a toll on his students’ confidence and their larger individual and cultural identities. In order to rise to their true potential, Phillips believes that African-Americans must nourish their dual identities and embrace both immediate and abstract communication styles, learn how to be both pro-individual and pro-community, and own both their heritage as the oppressed and their present reality as privileged members of a “Euro-American” society. Further, he advises forgiveness, because to live with anger toward white America fosters a damaging “moral philosophy based on victimization.” This text is carefully constructed with considered observations and support drawn from a variety of sources and thinkers. Phillips can be commended for not injecting any pop-culture fluff or oversimplifying his message, but as a whole, the book lacks fluidity and intuitive organization.

A thoughtful, thorough analysis geared toward African-American leaders and educators that offers limited readability for a general audience.

Pub Date: March 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468566123

Page Count: 240

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2012

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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