THE MEANING OF STAR TREK

For all those Trekkies who—even after repeatedly watching hundreds of episodes of Star Trek and its sequels—still haven't got the show figured out, this book just might do the trick. Despite his dubious claim that no other books have tried to catalog the meanings of Star Trek, novelist Richards (Zero Tolerance, 1996, etc.) does a sound job of mining broad themes, attitudes, and implications from the various Trek series. Perhaps because it lasted many seasons longer than any of the others—and preferred metaphysical speculation and diplomacy over Captain Kirkstyle fisticuffs with aliens—Star Trek: The Next Generation provides most of Richards's material. A former Harvard English professor, Richards usually manages to keep his deconstructionism dumbed down to a level accessible to teenage sci-fi fans (although he often seems to be pining for the Elysian fields of lit-crit academic discourse). While the general tendency in myth is toward tragedy, this is not the case with Star Trek, which is motivated, he asserts, by ``essentially comic visions emphasizing the triumph of the hero, the flourishing of civilization, and the importance of all action.'' No doubt the usually sunny, comic vision of commercial television is also responsible, but this is the kind of analysis Richards shies away from. He is concerned with the ``what,'' not the ``why,'' mooting almost any discussion of the nonhermeneutical meanings of Star Trek. Thus, there is nothing, for example, on why the Federation's benign variant of expansionism/imperialism looks a lot like a sci-fi version of the ``Great Society.'' Within the ``text'' of the show, however, Richards's analysis is excellent and covers everything from theology to the emphasis on individualism that lies at the very heart of the Star Trek universe. Though this isn't exactly rocket science, Richards does a fine job with the material at hand. If only he'd boldly dared to go a little further.

Pub Date: July 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-48437-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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