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STATUS AND CULTURE

HOW OUR DESIRE FOR SOCIAL RANK CREATES TASTE, IDENTITY, ART, FASHION, AND CONSTANT CHANGE

Hefty but compellingly readable—essential for anyone desiring a deeper understanding of status inequity.

A culture writer explains how two critical concepts impact modern life.

Tokyo-based writer Marx, author of Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style, argues that status and culture are so intertwined that we can’t understand how one works without understanding the other, but a major obstacle is that “status itself has…long been a mystery.” Exploring a wealth of research, anecdotal evidence, and observations across a number of disciplines, the author attempts to solve what he calls the “Grand Mystery of Culture,” encompassing questions of why humans gravitate toward some behaviors and not others, how defined sensibilities and conventions emerge, and why behaviors change or persist over time. Every person uses status symbols to communicate, and all conventions also have status value; we understand that not all of them are equal, and some are more desirable than others. The signaling strategies of different classes vary widely, from the vintage antique luxuries and social capital of old money families and the privileged information of professional classes to the flashy luxuries favored by flagship millionaires in the new money class. In a global society where information is increasingly democratized, displays of raw wealth become the most easy-to-read symbols, which is why lower-income individuals and citizens of developing economies often flock to conspicuous consumption. Marx thoroughly explains complex subjects, breaking down the necessary elements and bolstering his points with research and examples that are both plentiful and entertaining, including Larry the Cable Guy, designer cupcakes, England’s “teddy boys,” and Lassie, to name just a few. A crucial takeaway from the book is that status isn’t going to get less important anytime soon, so it’s imperative that we are more proactive not only in lessening inequality in legal and economic spheres, but also being more conscientious of how we confer status in our interactions and what we value. “We all compete for status, whether we like it or not,” writes Marx. “We can at least better explain the rules to make it a fairer fight.”

Hefty but compellingly readable—essential for anyone desiring a deeper understanding of status inequity.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-29670-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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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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THE AGE OF GRIEVANCE

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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