A light and sweet account of a rural upbringing.




A woman remembers the sights, sounds, smells, and events of her Florida childhood in this memoir.

Baxter (Write Your Memoir: One Story at a Time, 2017, etc.) was born in the front room of a Florida “cracker” house, named for its open-air dividing hallway. An unexpected surprise for her parents after the births of her sisters Patsy and Anetha, the author was raised by a caring and loving clan. Like almost everyone else in the rural community, the family made its living growing tobacco, corn, and other staple crops; relied on trading and planting more than store-bought commodities for the day-to-day needs of its home; and didn’t have any next-door neighbors. Trees and fields separated the homestead from the next one. This isn’t to say that Baxter didn’t grow up in a close community—some of the most touching portions of the book describe her regular visits to her grandparents’ house down the road, where family members gathered their mail, baked holiday fruitcakes, and caught up on gossip. The author had an especially warm relationship with her great-grandfather Tip, a gentle soul who spent most of his time smoking on the front porch and singing to the children before dementia incapacitated him. In 75 chapters, broken into 6 segments describing important phases of the author’s childhood, Baxter uses anecdotes to provide a comprehensive, striking picture of her life, from her babysitter/dog Tommy to her father’s series of automobiles and her combative sibling relationships. Her pragmatic, whip-smart, and loving mother, Ethel, is captured with particular vibrancy (“Mama read stories to us and taught us how to do things, like make windmills with construction paper and a stick”). Baxter’s early years were not uneventful—a series of chapters covers the flood of 1948 while others examine the adjustment of attending school for the first time and her struggle to stop wetting the bed. But anyone looking for an account of trauma or seismic changes won’t find it here—the author provides a charming, sunny story of a childhood (complete with photos) that seems to have been a largely stable and happy one. This means that Baxter’s recollections of how her family lived day to day take center stage in chapters that are largely enjoyable thanks to her clear and vivid writing style.

A light and sweet account of a rural upbringing.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2017


Page Count: 417

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


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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