Herstory with a dash of sarcasm and a wide global and chronological reach.

THE WOMEN'S HISTORY OF THE MODERN WORLD

HOW RADICALS, REBELS, AND EVERYWOMEN REVOLUTIONIZED THE LAST 200 YEARS

English novelist and journalist Miles celebrates women’s achievements—some worthy and others dubious—from the French Revolution to the age of #MeToo.

Are feminists running out of neglected trailblazers to hold up for overdue praise? Readers may wonder after reading this curious narrative paean to myriad “extraordinary women” who have “banded together to remake our world.” The author begins with three underappreciated heroines of the French Revolution: Olympe de Gouges, a writer guillotined for sins that included protesting injustices to women; Théroigne de Méricourt, a revolutionary known for “striding around town in a man’s riding clothes and sporting a large hat with a flamboyant phallic plume”; and Pauline Léon, a champion of women’s right to bear arms. Others who merit their entries include Patyegarang, an 18th-century Indigenous woman of Australia’s Eora nation who helped to create the first written record of “the Aboriginal Language of Sydney”; and Katō Shidzue, a Japanese feminist who brought Margaret Sanger to Japan when her country classified ideas about birth control as “dangerous thoughts.” Yet it’s hard to fathom why, among political figures, the author taps Imelda Marcos and Jiang Qing (“Madame Mao”) but not Golda Meir, or why, among aerospace pioneers, she nods to Hitler’s personal pilot, Hanna Reitsch (who embraced “Nazi theories of racial purity”), but not Amelia Earhart or Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. Miles’ tone sometimes does a disservice to her subjects, as she ranges from matter-of-fact declaration to sarcastic dismissal—e.g., when she corrects herself after mentioning Vietnam’s “French invaders”: “sorry, colonists delivering the benefits of civilization.” Still, this fact-packed chronicle may appeal to younger readers or those seeking a more playful, anecdotal approach to women’s history. The book ends with “The Women’s Manifesto for Equality,” of perhaps less interest to American women than to their sisters in places where feminism still lacks traction.

Herstory with a dash of sarcasm and a wide global and chronological reach.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-244403-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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