COMPLAINT!

Sharp criticism of an overlooked systemic problem in higher education.

A scholarly critique of the difficulties encountered by those who file formal complaints in the world of higher education.

In an era of Black Lives Matter, MeToo, and a host of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, you might think that there would be more transparency in dealing with charges of discrimination and harassment, particularly at the university level. Not so, writes Ahmed, an independent feminist scholar who left her post at a British university over its treatment of sexual harassment. “To be heard as complaining is not to be heard,” she writes. “To hear someone as complaining is an effective way of dismissing someone. You do not have to listen to the content of what she is saying if she is just complaining or always complaining.” The author, who has gained notoriety in academic circles for Living a Feminist Life (2017) and other books, presents a strong argument that power in higher education tends to protect itself, that diversity initiatives are often nothing more than window dressing, and that those who file complaints about a hostile work environment often face accusations of disloyalty or troublemaking. Charges of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, Ahmed argues, are similar from institution to institution and ubiquitous because the conditions that spark them don’t change. Those who wish to file formal complaints often find it difficult to navigate the complex procedures, only to find their paperwork buried in some cabinet or their cases adjudicated behind closed doors. Those who go public, meanwhile, face withdrawal of funding, lack of institutional support, and being passed over for promotion. In most cases, the bureaucrats who run universities are more concerned with protecting the institution than with correcting transgressions. Most of the charges here are broad and general, but anyone who has worked in higher education will recognize much of what Ahmed brings to light.

Sharp criticism of an overlooked systemic problem in higher education.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4780-1771-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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