ROUGH SLEEPERS

DR. JIM O'CONNELL'S URGENT MISSION TO BRING HEALING TO HOMELESS PEOPLE

A searching, troubling look at the terrible actualities of homelessness.

Noted long-form journalist Kidder rides along as clinicians try to serve one of Boston’s most marginalized populations.

The term rough sleeper is not used much in American English. It’s a borrowing from the British way of describing the people who sleep where sleep is not intended: doorways, sidewalks, culverts, etc. Kidder’s hero, Dr. James Joseph O’Connell, has spent decades with volunteer and paid workers driving in a medicine- and supply-stuffed van to the places where this population gathers. Many of the rough sleepers are mentally ill or addicts. Most are White, perhaps because, as O’Connell ventures, “the Black and Latino communities are more willing than Boston’s white world to harbor their homeless.” In any event, “once people have fallen to living on the streets, they have reached a certain horrible equality.” Against the work of O’Connell and his Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program stand an array of bureaucrats and the police, who regularly roust the homeless from their camps and nooks, forcing them to find even less hospitable places to survive the night. O’Connell, now well past retirement age, is the tutelary angel of the piece, but many lesser heroes work around the clock to save lives and treat the downtrodden with dignity. The job is thankless and endless. As O’Connell’s mentor told him, “We’re way down on the solution scale,” and indeed, finding a solution to homelessness is a sociological and economic problem more than a medical one. For all that, said one worker, O’Connell keeps on trying: “This is really about accountability, system design, performance. Until that’s fixed, Jim is basically standing at the bottom of a cliff, trying to save people.” Sometimes he succeeds, but too often, for reasons institutional and personal, some people can’t and won’t be saved, and many who can be will slip between the cracks.

A searching, troubling look at the terrible actualities of homelessness.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-984801-43-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

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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