An urgent call for racial justice that demands attention, discussion, and action.

STATE OF EMERGENCY

HOW WE WIN IN THE COUNTRY WE BUILT

Activist and organizer Mallory sounds an alarm against complacency now that a new administration is in the White House.

American history has been full of terrible moments for Black people, but one of particularly pressing importance happened recently. “To wake up on January 6, 2021,” writes the author, “to see a noose hanging in front of the United States Capitol while domestic terrorists breached the complex where our congressional leaders met to legislate, was paralyzing.” Paralyzing but not unexpected: Mallory’s next thought was, “Wow, they finally did it.” The Trump administration, whose leader fomented the revolt, is gone, but the enemies of Black progress remain. Against that, writes the author, “it is not enough to be nonracist.” Black activists and their White allies—who are welcome if they are “careful not to try to own the fight”—must commit to being anti-racist, to constantly combat racism and its exponents. Mallory delivers a series of rules that one wishes were ironic: “Don’t talk back,” reads one, since the consequence is that “You will be deemed dangerous,” while another counsels not to wear a hoodie. Because “my undiluted Blackness is worth fighting for,” the author urges a well-organized movement of resistance that involves, among other tenets, stopping to record every encounter of Black persons and the police, taking down names and badge numbers and filing complaints. Despite her well-thought-through program, which concludes with the rule “Be unapologetic about your Blackness until they respect it,” Mallory calls herself a contributor to and not a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement (she also co-founded the Women’s March on Washington), a movement whose necessity remains self-evident even with the new Biden-Harris presidency: “They must turn over the soil in order to grow a new political landscape for us all.” This is the first book from the Black Privilege imprint, led by radio and TV personality Charlamagne Tha God.

An urgent call for racial justice that demands attention, discussion, and action.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-46-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Black Privilege Publishing/Atria

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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