A sometimes pleasant adventure that loses its credibility when it ventures into the darker side of on-campus life.

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Fun and Games on Campus and How College Presidents Earn Their Big Dollars

Debut author Iosue’s humorous memoir recounts his time as the college president at York College in Pennsylvania.

Iosue describes the comedic travails of college presidents—fundraising attempts with eccentric elderly millionaires, events with temperamental musicians and speakers, and everyday debacles with drunken frat boys. The author’s persona is that of an old-school curmudgeon with Calvinist tendencies and an Ozzie and Harriet manner. He opposes coed cohabitation, pets on campus and all manner of freewheeling student behavior. Organized by types of interactions—“A Typical Day” and “Fraternity Frolics” are two chapter titles—the book chronicles Iosue’s struggle not to lose his mind or his temper amid life on campus. Most winningly, the author isn’t afraid to mock his own character flaws, devoting many details to the large egos of college presidents. He even shares his failed attempts to get Frank Sinatra to appear on campus. His first-person narrative of his misadventures is told in a droll, polished style. However, Iosue’s evident conservative bent may irk some readers. While most will laugh at his descriptions of drunken fraternity antics, his jabs at Transgender Studies and mentions of the Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas case may alienate some of his audience. In particular, the chapter on sexual harassment—where Iosue largely throws up his hands at the university’s inability to determine guilt or innocence and comments on harassment of students he considers “schlumpy”—is an unfortunate subject choice that will leave some readers fuming. At minimum, it undermines Iosue’s authority and sympathy as a narrator. It is one thing for a college president to joke about keg parties on campus, but another to approach sexual harassment in a flippant or jocular way.

A sometimes pleasant adventure that loses its credibility when it ventures into the darker side of on-campus life.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475250725

Page Count: 308

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2012

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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