TO FREE THE CAPTIVES

A PLEA FOR THE AMERICAN SOUL

A lyrical memoir conveys an urgent message.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning poet combines memoir and history in a powerful new book.

Smith, translator, memoirist, and poet laureate of the U.S. 2017 to 2019, delves into her family’s history—a history of subjugation, violence, and enslavement—in order to “endure the intractability of the world I know.” In the world of her forebears, and in her own, she asserts, “the Freed are discouraged from confusing themselves with the Free.” Freed though they were, her great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents were oppressed and threatened by a world rife with racism. “I descend from a history of daily miracles,” she writes, “by which the soul of a people whom institution upon institution has sought to annihilate yet lives on.” Smith’s search into her past took her to archives, military records, and census forms, where, she notes, “there is no column for Love,” but still, the forms reveal “names and traces” that allow her to reconstruct “stories and lives that can liberate us.” Those lives were buoyed by a strong sense of spiritual community, where the “ring shout” served as “a shared heartbeat.” The shout, Smith explains, is “a cultural practice rooted in praise, song, and the soul-sustaining power of something so unperturbed by logic as to call itself the Holy Ghost.” Because of her parents’ “titanic effort,” Smith and her siblings grew up to transcend many racial barriers—Smith graduated from Harvard, where she now teaches—and, she writes, “were allowed to mistake ourselves for the Free.” But as she reflects on her education, career, marriages, and motherhood; and on many recent, recurring incidents of violence against Blacks, she increasingly identifies with the Freed. “What,” she asks, “might this nation stand to learn from a people whose soul alone has carried them through centuries of storm and war?”

A lyrical memoir conveys an urgent message.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780593534762

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • IndieBound Bestseller

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • IndieBound Bestseller

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018


  • New York Times Bestseller

CALYPSO

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018


  • New York Times Bestseller

In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

Categories:
Close Quickview