A vigorous complement to other primers in political activism and social justice.

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MAKE CHANGE

HOW TO FIGHT INJUSTICE, DISMANTLE SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION, AND OWN OUR FUTURE

A blend of memoir and manifesto by Black Lives Matter leader King.

Born in 1979, the author was already a well-known activist, using social media for progressive causes, when a friend and Morehouse College classmate sent him a note advising him of a YouTube post showing the infamous 2014 “I can’t breathe” killing of Eric Garner by New York police. “The case and the injustice of the murder…consumed me from that day forward,” he writes. “I took it personally.” He dug deep to discover that the NYPD had banned the chokehold that killed Garner two decades earlier and discovered that police across the country “have shot and killed an average of three people a day,” most of whom never made the national news cycle, especially if they were members of ethnic minorities. Things are worse than ever, King writes, in a book that shares the spirit of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. The institutions that ostensibly protect all citizens are crumbling, gradually overcome by a creeping fascism that has risen slowly and stealthily over decades. What’s to be done? “Making change isn’t theoretical,” writes the author. “You have to get out there and fight for it. You have to be in the game, in the campaign, in the war.” Of course, that fight will involve losing some battles, as King’s mentor Bernie Sanders, who provides the foreword, has experienced, and it’s likely to be met by objections on the part of well-meaning people: “Nobody believes in me,” “I’ll start later,” “I’m afraid of failure.” There’s no time for all that, and King advises instead getting out and becoming involved in grassroots movements: “Don’t be pushy to the point of weirdness, but exchange information, and let them know that you are hoping to volunteer alongside them and could start immediately.” That encouragement is welcome, and in any event, writes King, those who oppose democratic change are busy on their end: “They are not passive defenders of the status quo but deliberate, forceful advocates of it.”

A vigorous complement to other primers in political activism and social justice.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-04800-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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