An enlightening reminder about human rights and civic responsibility, all too relevant in a troubled time.

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO AMERICA

FOR THE IMMIGRANT AND THE CURIOUS

The Iranian American poet, journalist, and immigrant offers a cleareyed introduction to America.

Hakakian, a Guggenheim fellow who has worked with the Council on Foreign Relations, the Wilson Center for International Scholars, and other organizations, delivers a book that serves as both a primer for immigrants and a knowledgeable alternative viewpoint on a fractured nation. The narrative is pleasingly intimate, as well, with the author speaking directly to “you,” not only exploring her own experiences, but also using the exercise to emphasize the shared anxiety faced by any stranger in a strange land. She breaks the book into two equally useful and thoughtful halves, the first of which tackles the hurdles of arrival in the U.S. From tense moments at customs and immigration to the overwhelming nature of shopping in the land of plenty to the woes of public transportation, Hakakian somehow manages to make the drudgeries of entry into a new culture both fascinating and frightening. In the second half, the author takes a more introspective approach and adds useful cultural and historical context to the experiences of immigrants when they arrive in America. This part opens with a long series of “lessons,” starting with love and sex and including segments on “The Vices and Virtue of an American Lover” and “Your First American Romance: A Few Warnings.” Equally reflective is the following series of essays on the diaspora and the disconnect between how things worked in your home country and how things work in the U.S. This is heavy stuff, not least Hakakian’s breakdown of the love-hate relationship between immigrants and their chosen country as well as a peek behind the curtain at “Anti-American Vitriol.” The author maintains a smooth narrative pace punctuated by intriguing anecdotes about everything from the first Persian to meet an American president to the biography of American asparagus.

An enlightening reminder about human rights and civic responsibility, all too relevant in a troubled time.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65606-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

A meandering chronicle of a year on the road.

FREEDOM

The bestselling author explores the lure of nomadism.

At the age of 51, childless and soon to be divorced, Junger spent much of one year walking 400 miles alongside railroad lines in the eastern U.S. with a changing cast of three companions and his dog. They called their trek “the Last Patrol”: an escape, “a temporary injunction against whatever was coming,” and an interlude of freedom from the restrictions and demands of conventional life. Because the swaths of property alongside railroad lines were “the least monitored” land in the country, it seemed a safe choice for the wanderers, who did not want to be mistaken for vagrants. “Most nights,” Junger notes, “we were the only people in the world who knew where we were.” The author’s contemplative, digressive narrative combines vivid details of the walk, which was completed in several segments, with political, social, and cultural history; anthropology; and science. He ruminates on nomadic society, hunter-gatherers, Indigenous peoples, the perilous escapes of runaway slaves, various wars, and conflicts that include Cain’s jealousy of Abel and Ireland’s Easter uprising. Sometimes these musings involve considerations of freedom; not always. “Throughout history,” he writes, “good people and bad have maintained their freedom by simply staying out of reach of those who would deprive them of it. That generally meant walking a lot.” Nomadism has romantic appeal for Junger, just as, he claims, it has had for “the settled world.” To hunter-gatherers, working the land seemed a form of subservience; nomadic societies, asserts the author, were more equitable than societies centered around land ownership. Among hunter-gatherers, “although leaders understandably had more prestige than other people, they didn’t have more rights.” Although the trip did not yield epiphanies, Junger finally arrived at a place where he decided to stop wandering and step into his future. It was time “to face my life.”

A meandering chronicle of a year on the road.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982153-41-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more