Unquestionably hard to read but an important, veil-lifting book.



A sociologist collects candid, pain-drenched statements from teens who have attempted suicide and offers suggestions on how to help them.

Teenage suicide is extremely difficult to discuss, but Williams (Sociology/New School of Social Research; The Con Men: Hustling in New York City, 2015, etc.), no stranger to tough subjects, jumps headfirst into the task, talking to teens and reading their journals, notes, and letters to comprehend why they attempt to take their own lives. Based on his interviews and the excerpts from the personal journals, readers will acknowledge the many deep and painful secrets that teens often hide. Most of these secrets involve bullying, physical and verbal abuse, drug abuse, incest by one or both parents, or rape by other family members and/or strangers, issues that all lead to isolation, loneliness, and despair on the part of the teen. The more they feel separated from their peers, parents, and other adults, the more they turn to drinking, drugging, cutting, and risky sexual behaviors—anything in order to “get the hurt out on their own,” writes Williams. “They cut their skin. They smoke, snort, drink every day. And when things seem like they are going nowhere, they kill themselves and leave letters behind to remind us they once lived.” The author lets these girls and boys from a variety of backgrounds speak for themselves, making no attempt to correct them in their speech or writing, which lends a power to their voices, including those who sadly succeeded in their suicides. Their testimonies are not easy to confront, but the honesty with which they share their stories far outweighs the readers’ discomfort. “What separates the kids in this book from the rest,” writes the author, “is that they have nowhere to go; no one to talk with; no emotional sustenance, attention, or caring; no direction to turn.”

Unquestionably hard to read but an important, veil-lifting book.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-231-17790-0

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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