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An eloquent and urgent collection.

Reflections on racism from 40 writers.

Pulitzer Prize winner Smith, former poet laureate of the U.S., and Freeman, an executive editor at Knopf, gather poems, letters, and essays, most previously published in Literary Hub, bearing witness to systemic oppression and racial injustice. Angry, rueful, and defiant, the impressive roster of award-winning writers and academics portrays a nation wracked by pain. “There’s a revolution outside, my love,” journalist and cultural critic Kirsten West Savali writes in a moving letter to her son. “Where in the world is safe for you, my beautiful, beautiful boy?” Jasmon Drain, addressing his daughter, reflects that during the pandemic, she must wear two masks: one, her skin color; the other, protection against the virus. “Your born mask brought fear. This new one redoubles it,” he writes. “There’s no vaccine for who you’ll be or how you’ll be viewed, for the unseen or visible parts that will ofttimes be assumed of you.” Protests against police brutality inspired many pieces: “Like an arrow,” writes Native American writer Layli Long Soldier, “the images of George Floyd pierced my soul.” Living in Madison, Wisconsin, where he teaches creative writing, poet Amaud Jamaul Johnson describes “the Fault Lines of Midwestern Racism”: insidious expressions of prejudice among Whites who treat him like “a kind of mascot, a pet Negro, that one Black body in the coffee shop or at the private pool; I’ve become everyone’s one Black friend.” Francisco Goldman compares racist dictators to Trump: “The aftereffects of an evil dictatorship are hard to get rid of, to scrub clean. It usually involves a steadfast struggle, and justice is the only remedy.” In “A Letter to Black America,” Smith invokes Black solidarity, exhorting her readers to “revel in the depth and the flair and the belief and the secrecy of Blackness. We are lucky to be who we are, and we know it.” Other contributors include Edwidge Danticat, Gregory Pardlo, Ross Gay, and Camille T. Dungy.

An eloquent and urgent collection.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31469-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

The New York Times columnist serves up a cogent argument for shelving the grudge and sucking it up.

In 1976, Tom Wolfe described the “me decade” as a pit of mindless narcissism. A half century later, Bruni, author of Born Round and other bestselling books, calls for a renaming: “‘Me Turning Point’ would have been more accurate, because the period of time since has been a nonstop me jamboree.” Our present cultural situation, he notes, is marked by constant grievance and endless grasping. The ensuing blame game has its pros. Donald Trump, he notes, “became a victor by playing the victim, and his most impassioned oratory, such as it was, focused not on the good that he could do for others but on the bad supposedly done to him.” Bruni is an unabashed liberal, and while he places most of the worst behavior on the right—he opens with Sean Hannity’s bleating lie that the Biden administration was diverting scarce baby formula from needy Americans to illegal immigrants—he also allows that the left side of the aisle has committed its share of whining. A case in point: the silencing of a professor for showing an image of Mohammed to art students, neither religiously proscribed nor done without ample warning, but complained about by self-appointed student censors. Still, “not all grievances are created equal,” he writes. “There is January 6, 2021, and there is everything else. Attempts by leaders on the right to minimize what happened that day and lump it together with protests on the left are as ludicrous as they are dangerous.” Whether from left or right, Bruni calls for a dose of humility on the part of all: “an amalgam of kindness, openness, and silliness might be an effective solvent for grievance.”

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668016435

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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