A valuable education for women and men. For readers looking for a thorough biography of Friedan, check out Judith...

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A STRANGE STIRRING

THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE AND AMERICAN WOMEN AT THE DAWN OF THE 1960S

A sharp revisiting of the generation that was floored by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963), and how the book is still relevant today.

In order to understand how Friedan’s bestseller affected the World War II generation of women in America, Coontz (History, Family Studies/Evergreen State Coll.; Marriage, a History, 2006, etc.) delved into Friedan’s archives at the Schlesinger Library, in Cambridge, Mass., as well as conducted surveys of her own. She taps into the incendiary reaction originally provoked by the book, and thereby is able to elucidate more clearly how the women’s movement evolved over the succeeding decades. Having done their part for the war effort, the middle-class, mostly white women of Friedan’s late-’50s/early-’60s study welcomed their men back and were safely ensconced in the home, aspiring to an ideal of wifeliness and motherhood perfectly calibrated by Madison Avenue and the popular magazines of the day. Although many of the women were the first in their families to attend college, many of them were “tricked” into believing that their greater purpose in life was to serve husbands and raise children, rather than pursue a career. Ultimately, they succumbed to what Friedan called a “nameless aching dissatisfaction.” which was something like emotional paralysis and existential malaise. Psychologists and so-called experts often blamed the problem on the women themselves for their inability to conform, but Friedan diagnosed it presciently as the thwarting of “the need to grow and fulfill their potentialities as human beings.” In fact, there was a name for what was ailing American women of the era—sex discrimination—and Coontz examines it with a battery of facts and figures. She traces Friedan’s research and some gaps in her argument—e.g., she largely ignored African-American and working-class women—and the creative spin she gave to her own background. Coontz concludes that we still have far to go in achieving Friedan’s vision of equality between the sexes.

A valuable education for women and men. For readers looking for a thorough biography of Friedan, check out Judith Hennessee's Betty Friedan: Her Life (1999).

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-465-00200-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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