The Rockefeller family’s contributions to American culture are unquestioned, but this book veers too close to panegyric.




Loebl (America’s Art Museums: A Traveler’s Guide to Great Collections Large and Small, 2002, etc.) celebrates the myriad contributions of generations of Rockefellers to the public enjoyment of art.

The author focuses on the fortune of the Rockefellers and how they chose to dispose of much of it, but she offers very little criticism or analysis. Instead, she provides a simple chronology of the family’s rise and their major collections and endowments, with a final chapter on their smaller legacies. There is no gainsaying the significance of the Rockefellers to the cultural life of the country. Rockefeller Center, MoMA, the Cloisters, Colonial Williamsburg and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum of American Folk Art, Lincoln Center, the Nelson Rockefeller Empire State Mall—these are colossal gifts to the country. Loebl also looks at endowments to Dartmouth, Vassar, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and numerous others. The author’s strategy in each chapter is fairly fixed: some background on the relevant Rockefellers involved in the endowment, a construction history of the building(s), a few quick comments about the prominent pieces on display and some gushy prose about how gorgeous it is. Loebl confesses at the end that she began to feel like a member of the family—perhaps too much so. Hers may be the only published account of the death of Nelson Rockefeller, for example, that neglects to mention the Megan Marshack controversy, and the author becomes so accustomed to writing about enormous gifts and acquisitions that she notes without irony that circumspect John D. Rockefeller III limited himself to “only” $1-$1.5 million per year in art purchases. Loebl also characterizes as mere “string-pulling” the maneuvering that enabled Chase to acquire Lower Manhattan land for its skyscraper.

The Rockefeller family’s contributions to American culture are unquestioned, but this book veers too close to panegyric.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-123722-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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


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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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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