An entertaining coming-of-age memoir from “a proud dashiki daughter, dressed in my own dreams.”



A professor and pop-culture observer finds insight behind the statement, “clothes are never just garments.”

For Ford (African Studies and History/Univ. of Delaware; Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, 2015, etc.) and her generation of black women who came of age in the 1980s and ’90s, born to parents who embraced the civil rights and Black Is Beautiful movements, certain garments carried cultural import. In a narrative that progresses by discrete, chronological chapters, the author presents a kind of memoir of her life through certain iconic looks that she incorporated over the years, creating through hairstyle, clothes, and accessories a “powerful social skin.” Her topics include the dashiki, baggy jeans, “coochie cutters,” knee-high boots (“according to the churchgoing adults in our young lives, knee-high boots were…for club-hopping women, street walkers, strippers, and drug dealers’ girlfriends”), bamboo earrings, the afro puff, and the hoodie. Each of these, she asserts, was a black innovation that encapsulated “rich, textured stories of our lives.” The dashiki was adopted by black militants in the late 1960s as a symbol of pan-African struggle. In a humorous section, Ford describes the Jheri curl craze of the 1980s, sported by Michael Jackson and others. “Hands down,” she writes, “the Jheri curl is the most maligned hairstyle in black history” as well as “the messiest…smelliest hairstyle ever invented.” As the author delineates, many of the looks were inspired by urban culture and the emergent genre of hip-hop. As Ford moved from high school to college, where she majored in English literature and African studies, she continued to experiment with her look as a reflection of her inner self. Later, “with three degrees behind my name,” she championed the hoodie look as a form of protest and sympathy with the Black Lives Matter movement.

An entertaining coming-of-age memoir from “a proud dashiki daughter, dressed in my own dreams.”

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17353-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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