A finely drawn portrait of a fishery, once so revered its prey was stamped on Carthaginian and Phoenician coins, now hanging...

MATTANZA

LOVE AND DEATH IN THE SEA OF SICILY

A handful of seasons among the Sicilian tonnaroti (tuna fishermen) are drawn with an appealing, lyric equanimity by newcomer Maggio.

On a chance visit to Sicily with her father, Maggio fell in love with a man and with an ancient ritual, the harvest of giant bluefin tuna as they make their way to springtime spawning grounds in the Mediterranean. The human relationship went the way of all flesh, but her fascination with the harvest of tuna grew stronger, to the point where she spent the whole season among the fishermen. She worked hard to draw the men out, to have them convey to her some reason for pursuing the doomed fishery (as over-fishing has pretty much reduced the catch to a piddling remnant). The men come to light as an engaging bunch of prideful artisans, elements in a near-mythic enterprise with the sea. The fishery was active at least 4000 years ago when local cave artists depicted bluefins on their walls: The prayers to Jesus offered by the fisherman feel alarmingly contemporary in so ageless a practice. More easily captured, and done so with Maggio's flair for description, are the physical aspects of he hunt—the setting and pulling of the nets and the architecture of the fish traps, the way to gaff a half-ton eight-foot bluefin and the way not to—the role of the fleet master, the biology of the prey, the atmosphere in the closed cannery with its ranks of copper cauldrons once fired by a hard bitter coal to cook the great fish. Added like chinks to a wall are details of her personal life on the island, the small dramas that come with friendships and a love affair.

A finely drawn portrait of a fishery, once so revered its prey was stamped on Carthaginian and Phoenician coins, now hanging by a thread. (30 b&w photographs)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7382-0269-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Perseus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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