A thoughtful biography that, perhaps, signals a new scholarly appreciation of a remarkable man.

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UP FROM HISTORY

THE LIFE OF BOOKER T. WASHINGTON

A comprehensive reassessment of the life and career of an African-American whose importance has been almost criminally neglected.

At the time of Booker T. Washington’s death in 1915, the country widely acknowledged the esteemed orator and author of Up From Slavery, the tireless educator and founder of Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, as the successor to Frederick Douglass. But failing health, a late career scandal and a sustained attack by Northern black enemies who deeply resented his preeminence had already dimmed Washington’s star, and his historical reputation has only continued to decline. Amidst the poisonous racial climate of the post-Reconstruction era, Washington favored interracial engagement, stressing the educational, moral and economic development of his people as the surest path toward resolving “the Negro Problem.” Washington disavowed any “artificial forcing” of social equality and eschewed overt political engagement, instead emphasizing self-help, group solidarity and education with real-world applications to establish an economic basis for racial harmony. His critics accused him of surrendering his dignity to the white industrialists and philanthropists who supported Tuskegee, of ignoble submission to the white politicians who occasionally threw him crumbs, of practically accepting the alleged inferiority of his race and of wanting to keep the Negro “a hewer of wood and drawer of water.” During Washington’s last decade, the Niagara Movement and the NAACP had both emerged at least in part to counter his “Tuskegee machine,” to challenge his seeming stranglehold on black opinion and to counter his gospel of racial conciliation. The powerful pen and the fiery rhetoric of W.E.B. Du Bois began the work, still ongoing, of diminishing Washington’s achievement and his competing vision of black progress. In this measured and sympathetic treatment, Norrell (History/Univ. of Tennessee; The House I Live In: Race in the American Century, 2005, etc.) restores some balance, particularly with his detailed survey of conditions in the South.

A thoughtful biography that, perhaps, signals a new scholarly appreciation of a remarkable man.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-674-03211-8

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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