A unique portrait of post–9/11 Sikhs hampered by its rebranding of old ideas as “revolutionary.”



A Los Angeles–based Sikh American activist, lawyer, and filmmaker tries to reinvent the wheel of love in her coming-of-age memoir.

As the child of Sikh farmers in Clovis, California, Kaur grew up with the Punjabi phrase “chardi kala,” often translated as “relentless optimism,” a state prized by her faith. She has perhaps taken those words too much to heart in her first book, an overambitious blend of memoir, self-help, and left-leaning polemic. As a Stanford undergraduate, Kaur learned that a Sikh family friend had become “the first person killed in a hate crime after 9/11,” and the tragedy led her to travel across the country to interview other victims, whose stories she told in the documentary Divided We Fall. At Yale Law School, Kaur served as a legal observer at a prisoner’s hearing at Guantánamo, where the U.S. naval base just over the hill from the detention center was “a fantastical cross between small-town America and a Caribbean seaside resort,” with fast food restaurants, tennis courts, and a bowling alley. Unwisely, the author folds vivid sections on those and other trips into a meandering, New Age–y brief on the “revolutionary” effort “to reclaim love as a force for justice in our time” and “to love even our opponents.” Toward that end, Kaur suggests “meditating, expressing gratitude, retreating, bodywork, and being in nature” as well as other overfamiliar warhorses of the self-help genre. Throughout the book, her call for acts like “forgiveness” clashes with her view that rage is “a rightful response to the social traumas of patriarchy, white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty.” Depending on the situation, that view is debatable, and while the author offers plenty of good material on the plight of Sikh Americans after 9/11, those elements account for less than half the book; the rest is the author's heavily ideological "manifesto."

A unique portrait of post–9/11 Sikhs hampered by its rebranding of old ideas as “revolutionary.”

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-50909-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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



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. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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