An uplifting celebration of women’s power through communion.

WITCHES

THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF WOMEN WORKING TOGETHER

A quirky, wide-ranging look at women’s lives.

Tasmania-based writer and musician George-Allen makes an engaging book debut with “a memoir of learning, and unlearning,” motivated by her realization that despite being a feminist, she had “internalized misogyny.” In a patriarchal society, writes the author, women are discouraged from banding together because “isolated women are easier to sell things to, easier to control, more easily compressed into the very few ways to acceptably be a woman.” Hoping to counter the assumption that all women are “catty, backstabbing, untrustworthy bitches,” she set out to investigate women whose identities are connected to their senses of community: teenagers banding together to follow fashion trends or protest gun violence; girl bands; beauty vloggers and bloggers who “construct a narrative completely devoid of the male gaze”; sportswomen who find emotional power in training their bodies; dancers; midwives, who provide “the purest expression of care for women, by women, with women”; sex workers; farmers; nuns (“a whole bunch of women hanging out together, doing secret spiritual things”); and witches. “If a witch is a woman on the margins,” writes the author, “then we’re all witches.” Dance, she discovers, serves as more than artistic expression. “The women I spoke to,” she writes, “use dance to preserve culture, tackle body dysmorphia in refugee girls and facilitate discussions about race and intersectionality.” Although ballet has been criticized for insisting that dancers “spend a lifetime whittling their bodies into ethereal objects,” George-Allen finds, instead, that it gives women a chance “to be unapologetically physical, to strive for athletic excellence, and to be rewarded with unadulterated praise.” One of the most interesting chapters focuses on transgender women. As a straight, white, cis woman, the author grappled with the question of what makes a woman, finally concluding that gender is complex and socially constructed, “like money, or manners: imagined, held together by shared belief.” As she talked with a friend who transitioned, the author admits, she felt her own identity transform from “a whole, dull thing” into “a million brilliant bits.”

An uplifting celebration of women’s power through communion.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61219-834-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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