Susan Brownmiller, vitally updated.

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WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT RAPE

In an expansion of her popular 2013 New York Times op-ed, novelist and rape survivor Abdulali (Year of the Tiger, 2010, etc.) calls for franker conversation about rape.

Modeling discourse about rape that is at once direct and nuanced, unblinking yet subtle, the author tackles the complexities of sexual violence head-on, rightly criticizing simplistic shibboleths. For example, she encourages survivors to talk about their rapes, yet she recognizes that “telling” is sometimes costly and “doesn’t always come with a reward: comfort, closure, justice.” (Abdulali acknowledges that when discussing her own rape, she has sometimes worried that people think she should just get over it.) The author insightfully asks whether the “yes means yes and no means no” model adequately accounts for a woman who “chooses” to be raped over being killed or a woman who “give[s] in” to a man who holds power in her professional world. Abdulali also calls attention to the “institutional…scaffolding” that allows “abuse to flourish”—e.g., the family systems, political and economic arrangements, and workplace norms that deprive women of meaningful agency and that sometimes reward women for going along with systems that are ultimately disempowering. The book is distinguished by its global view; Abdulali includes examples and illustrations from the United States but also from India, South Africa, and Egypt. There’s a little bit of snark and dash of self-help. Spliced throughout are shorter chapters (“A brief pause for ennui,” “A brief pause for confusion”) that offer snapshots of the author’s emotional landscape: a feeling of rage that overtakes her, seemingly out of nowhere, while attending a bat mitzvah, or her envy of writers who get to write about bird song and other happy topics while she’s pondering brutality and violence (“Art! Joy! Life! It’s so much more inviting than discussing getting gonorrhea from one’s older brother or rape as a weapon of war”).

Susan Brownmiller, vitally updated.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62097-473-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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Readers would do well to heed the dark warning that this book conveys.

A WARNING

The nameless resister inside the White House speaks.

“The character of one man has widened the chasms of American political division,” writes Anonymous. Indeed. The Trump years will not be remembered well—not by voters, not by history since the man in charge “couldn’t focus on governing, and he was prone to abuses of power, from ill-conceived schemes to punish his political rivals to a propensity for undermining vital American institutions.” Given all that, writes the author, and given Trump’s bizarre behavior and well-known grudges—e.g., he ordered that federal flags be raised to full staff only a day after John McCain died, an act that insiders warned him would be construed as petty—it was only patriotic to try to save the country from the man even as the resistance movement within the West Wing simultaneously tried to save Trump’s presidency. However, that they tried did not mean they succeeded: The warning of the title consists in large part of an extended observation that Trump has removed the very people most capable of guiding him to correct action, and the “reasonable professionals” are becoming ever fewer in the absence of John Kelly and others. So unwilling are those professionals to taint their reputations by serving Trump, in fact, that many critical government posts are filled by “acting” secretaries, directors, and so forth. And those insiders abetting Trump are shrinking in number even as Trump stumbles from point to point, declaring victory over the Islamic State group (“People are going to fucking die because of this,” said one top aide) and denouncing the legitimacy of the process that is now grinding toward impeachment. However, writes the author, removal from office is not the answer, not least because Trump may not leave without trying to stir up a civil war. Voting him out is the only solution, writes Anonymous; meanwhile, we’re stuck with a president whose acts, by the resisters’ reckoning, are equal parts stupid, illegal, or impossible to enact.

Readers would do well to heed the dark warning that this book conveys.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1846-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

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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

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