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

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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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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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