An admirable effort to illuminate a hidden world that will be most useful to fellow researchers in the social sciences.

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LE BOOGIE WOOGIE

INSIDE AN AFTER-HOURS CLUB

Sociological research shines a light on a nightlife culture in which sex and drugs flourish openly.

Williams (Sociology/New School for Social Research; Teenage Suicide Notes: An Ethnography of Self-Harm, 2017, etc.) bridges the ivory tower and the urban subculture, employing ethnographic research to illuminate a world rarely glimpsed outside pulp fiction and film noir. The after-hours club of the title flourished in 1980s and ’90s Harlem, before rampant gentrification had transformed the neighborhood and cultural attitudes. “I live in two worlds, the world of the academy by day and the life of the street by night,” writes the author, “and I felt I had to reconcile them if I was ever to be the writer—the sociologist—I wanted to be.” In this book, he also has to reconcile then and now, because most of his field work was conducted two or three decades ago, before the internet, smartphones, and changing laws and attitudes had transformed the world. His research took place largely in loud and dark clubs, with subjects drunk or high on cocaine, making it tough to tell what they were saying or whom he could trust. He couldn’t tape or take detailed notes at the time, so much of what he details had to be reconstructed from memory. What he unveils is a subculture with its own codes and language, with moral values at odds with society at large, where drug use isn’t a sickness, addiction, or character defect but rather an “example of present-day resistance to conservative values and the desire of human beings to seek pleasurable ways of being regardless of risk.” Williams explores the cultural currency of cocaine, the commodification of sex by women who do not feel that they are being exploited, and the attitude of cool that pervades the after-hours atmosphere. He admits to voyeurism and some conflicted attitudes about the behavior he reports.

An admirable effort to illuminate a hidden world that will be most useful to fellow researchers in the social sciences.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-231-17789-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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