WASTE AND WANT

A SOCIAL HISTORY OF TRASH

—By their trash shall you know them” is the theme of this research-driven exploration of the rubbish and refuse habits of more than two centuries of Americans. “Rubbish took on new meanings” in the vast transition between the preindustrial society of the 18th century and the consumer culture of the 20th, says Strasser (Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market, 1989). She not only sorts what was trash in the 19th century, but tracks how and why what is defined as garbage expanded from a few shards of broken crockery buried in the backyard to landfills full of computers and disposable diapers. Described in detail are thrifty habits of 19th-century families, who refashioned worn or used objects of every description from broken bottles (could be made into funnels and bowls) to tired party dresses. If objects like rags and bones couldn’t be reused in the home, they were sold to itinerant peddlers to be recycled into paper and buttons. Children scavenged back alleys to find castoffs, especially scrap metal, that could be sold for a few pennies. At the turn of the century, increasing class differences, the growth of manufacturing, new concern with sanitation, and the entrance of women into the marketplace with no time to refurbish worn clothing brought upheaval to trash culture. Further changes are tracked through WWI, the Depression, and WWII, when recycling fat, metal, rubber, and paper became a patriotic duty. A wave of consumerism followed WWII, and the current wave of recycling is an offshoot of the countercultural 1960s, says Strasser. Although concerned about the continuing large volume of refuse generated now, Strasser is heartened that sorting trash for disposal has been revived, this time as a moral act and not a pecuniary one. Rummaging through the trash barrel of history has unearthed some choice, if occasionally dry, morsels of 20th-century culture. (b&w photos)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-4830-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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