A promising debut, gripping in its honesty.


A tribute to the author’s fierce grandmother blossoms into a family saga brimming with heartache and love.

In the first part, Ramírez introduces readers to the resilient women who loomed large in her childhood in El Paso, Texas: her maternal great-grandmother, Máma Lupe; her hardworking mother, Leticia; and, above all, her fiery maternal grandmother, Ita. The fraught, tense relationship between Máma Lupe and Ita—highlighted in a spectacular chapter devoted to a day at church—exemplifies the knotty bonds that tie mother to daughter, a recurring theme. Throughout the text, Ramírez interweaves anecdotes of childhood nights spent in bars with Ita (tamer than it sounds); Ita’s poignant nightly rituals; details about Leticia’s work for Customs at the border separating El Paso and Juárez, filling the role of “the brown gatekeeper to other brown people.” The clear star of the book is Ita, an unforgettable, larger-than-life character. In one striking chapter, the author tells the stories behind the many scars that mark Ita’s body, a literal road map of the older woman’s life. Meanwhile, the men in young Ramírez’s life—an absent father, an overindulged uncle, a couple of boyfriends—make appearances as secondary characters, distant shadows at times. In the second part—in which the author moves into adolescence and young adulthood—Ita and Leticia fade into the background, and their absences dull the crackling vitality of the first half. However, it’s in the second half of the book that Ramírez crucially explores her waning relationship with her father. Her attempts over the years to reconnect—often half-hearted but always sincere—culminate in a final effort that seals their differences. Using conversational prose full of vivid imagery, the author successfully explores the many dimensions of her identity as a Mexican American woman.

A promising debut, gripping in its honesty.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-94762-755-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

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 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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