Sensitive reflections on human value.

A family embraces difference.

Pearson, a professor of anthropology and social science, melds memoir and social, cultural, and medical history in a moving meditation on difference, disability, and humanity. In 2015, when his newborn daughter, Michaela, was diagnosed with Down syndrome, he and his wife were shocked. Soon, though, he asked himself whether that initial response was generated by ideas about normalcy deeply embedded in the culture. First identified by physician John Langdon Down in the 1860s, Down syndrome fed into assumptions about social hierarchy, evolution, and degeneration. Some researchers believed that Down syndrome individuals, because of their distinctive facial features, represented regression to a more primitive evolutionary stage. The eugenics movement and early intelligence testing intensified these beliefs, justifying the idea that children with Down syndrome were incapable of becoming productive members of society. In 1944, when psychologist Erik Erikson’s son Neil was born with Down syndrome, his eminent friend Margaret Mead advised him to send the baby to an institution immediately, never letting his wife see her son, thereby sparing the family emotional turmoil. The decision, Pearson discovered, tore the family apart; Neil died in an institution in 1965. During his short life, Mead herself evolved her views on human difference, speaking out about how much people with disabilities enrich “our understanding of humanity and the world.” By the time Michaela was born, abundant medical and educational resources were available for her, beginning at birth. However, Pearson also reports his frustration with a school system that evaluates her according to the ableist norms of standardized tests and, most crucially, didn’t take into account her health needs during the pandemic. When controversy over vaccines and masking roiled his Wisconsin community, Pearson sued the school board to institute masking. He and his wife, he writes, are committed to “an ongoing project to build a world where it is not only safe to be different, but where the most vulnerable are safe from structural violence.”

Sensitive reflections on human value.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780520388291

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


A mostly compelling account of one woman’s struggles within Trumpworld.

An insider’s account of the rampant misconduct within the Trump administration, including the tumult surrounding the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

Hutchinson, who served as an assistant to Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, gained national prominence when she testified to the House Select Committee, providing possibly the most damaging portrait of Trump’s erratic behavior to date. In her hotly anticipated memoir, the author traces the challenges and triumphs of her upbringing in New Jersey and the work (including a stint as an intern with Sen. Ted Cruz) that led her to coveted White House internships and eventual positions in the Office of Legislative Affairs and with Meadows. While the book offers few big reveals beyond her testimony (many details leaked before publication), her behind-the-scenes account of the chaotic Trump administration is intermittently insightful. Her initial portrait of Trump is less critical than those written by other former staffers, as the author gauges how his actions were seemingly stirred more by vanity and fear of appearing weak, rather than pure malevolency. For example, she recalls how he attended an event without a mask because he didn’t want to smear his face bronzer. Hutchinson also provides fairly nuanced portraits of Meadows and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who, along with Trump, eventually turned against her. She shares far more negative assessments about others in Trump’s orbit, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and adviser Rudy Giuliani, recounting how Giuliani groped her backstage during Trump’s Jan. 6 speech. The narrative lags after the author leaves the White House, but the story intensifies as she’s faced with subpoenas to testify and is forced to undergo deep soul-searching before choosing to sever ties with Trump and provide the incriminating information that could help take him down.

A mostly compelling account of one woman’s struggles within Trumpworld.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781668028285

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023


A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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