A frenetic packing of materials that leaves in-depth analysis mostly sacrificed for a panoramic view—but the resulting...



Should gays and lesbians exult in the recent spate of media depictions of their lives or shudder at the homogenized sterilization of their diversity?

Against the backdrop of the 1980s and ’90s, Walters (Sociology & Women’s Studies/Georgetown Univ.; Lives Together/Worlds Apart, 1992) analyzes the promise and the threat of queer portrayals in contemporary media: although the number of these programs and personalities has skyrocketed, the resulting depictions of gay and lesbian life often emerge as disturbingly skewed. In a nutshell, her thesis contends that increased gay representations in the media may entail that America sees the gay and lesbian community more frequently than ever; however, due to the stereotypical visions of queer life—such as psycho dykes, ditzy fashion homos, and lesbian chic—this visibility does not correspond with an increased knowledge about homosexuality. With a sweeping range, Walters probes the cultural repercussions of such characters as Dynasty’s tortured bisexual Steven Carrington and the all-too-chaste Matt of Melrose Place, as well as examining specific episodes of programs including Roseanne (when Mariel Hemingway kissed the eponymous heroine) and the coming-out episode of Ellen. Films also come under scrutiny, as Walters considers the differences between queer portrayals in mainstream Hollywood and those in independent films. And there are chapters on gay marriages, coming-out stories, and queer parenting—and an analysis of advertising images of gay and lesbian life, in which Walters dissects the commercialization of the queer community (pointing to a predictable display of gleaming teeth and toned bodies).

A frenetic packing of materials that leaves in-depth analysis mostly sacrificed for a panoramic view—but the resulting picture nevertheless emerges as detailed and refined.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2001

ISBN: 0-226-87231-9

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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