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

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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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