A useful key for understanding a politician and tactician much in the news but little known.

A veteran Kyiv-based correspondent for Time offers a nuanced portrait of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Show no mercy. Use all available weapons to wipe out every Russian thing that’s there.” So said Zelensky at the beginning of Russia’s invasion of his country, referring to Russian troops threatening to seize his capital’s airport. The Ukrainian military obliged, but those around Zelensky were surprised by the ferocity of his response; by Shuster’s account, the former comedian had become a steely leader overnight. He’d entered office under something of a cloud: Having promised not to take up residence in the president’s opulent quarters (but then doing just that), he aroused the anger of the political opposition and the press. The war soon followed, and it changed him. As Shuster writes, he “turned into a wartime president unique to our age of instant information,” one aspect of which was to keep his own counsel and rely less on his aides. That said, the author depicts Zelensky as somewhat of a naif. He had hoped, for example, that their shared background in show business would make Donald Trump more sympathetic to Ukraine’s cause, even as Trump proved himself to be a Putin cheerleader, particularly after cutting off funds when Zelensky sidelined his call for a probe into the Biden family. He also angered Joe Biden and other world leaders by his strident demands for more and more aid. Sensitive to criticism and, at one point, angry himself that world events seemed to have placed his nation in the middle of a power struggle between “these empires, the United States, Russia, China,” Zelensky has nonetheless clearly risen to the occasion—and, Shuster hopes, he will remain a resolute leader and guide his nation to victory.

A useful key for understanding a politician and tactician much in the news but little known.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780063307421

Page Count: 419

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023


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


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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