Warm, generous, and inspirational: a book for everyone.

BETTER, NOT BITTER

LIVING ON PURPOSE IN THE PURSUIT OF RACIAL JUSTICE

One of the wrongly accused and imprisoned Central Park Five recounts his experiences with an unjust system of justice.

Salaam was just 15 when he “was run over by the spiked wheels of justice.” That collision came when he was accused, along with four other teenagers, of raping a young woman in New York’s Central Park and leaving her for dead. Tried as a juvenile, he was sent into adult custody at Rikers Island, “a notoriously violent prison from which many men never returned,” before being shifted in and out of other institutions. In 2002, following a jailhouse confession by the actual attacker, the convictions were overturned. Inside the system, taking a cue from Malcolm X, Salaam accepted the fact that “it’s often incumbent upon the person to educate him- or herself while inside.” He completed high school and earned an associate’s degree, building on his enrollment in the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art when he was only 12. “They have created cages in order to create animals so they’ll have an excuse to create more cages,” writes the author. “But we all have the power to blossom behind those bars.” Sadly, as he notes, whereas he had the support of a loving and attentive mother, many other imprisoned people have no social network. One of the Five, unable to find work and adjust to life outside, returned to prison. Punctuating his prose with memorable images (“Fear was playing Double Dutch with my mind”), Salaam denounces a system of injustice built on the backs of Black people, demonized as born criminals. Remarkably, though Donald Trump himself made his first foray into politics on the backs of the Five, the author mentions him by name just once in a book rich in self-knowledge and compassion. “As the alchemist of your life,” he writes, “you have control over the choices you make on this journey….But no matter what, you can be free.”

Warm, generous, and inspirational: a book for everyone.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-0500-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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

Did you like this book?

more