A sincere first effort that aims to chip away at stereotypes surrounding same-sex parents.

MY TWO MOMS

LESSONS OF LOVE, STRENGTH, AND WHAT MAKES A FAMILY

With the assistance of Littlefield (co-author: The Truth Advantage: The 7 Keys to a Happy and Fulfilling Life, 2011, etc.), Wahls writes about growing up as the son of gay parents in the heartland.

In January 2011, the author, then a student at the University of Iowa, testified before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee as they considered a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In a short speech, Wahls talked about being raised by two lesbians and how his childhood was no different than those of children raised by heterosexual couples. The speech was aimed at dismantling the myth that kids are damaged by having gay parents, and it was effective: The YouTube video of the speech was viewed more than 18 million times, and Wahls appeared on national TV talk shows, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Here the author expands on his speech, discussing the values that his parents helped to instill in him, naming chapters after aspects of the Boy Scout law: “Trustworthy,” “Courteous,” “Reverent.” (Wahls takes pride in his scouting experience, repeatedly mentioning that he is an Eagle Scout, but he disagrees with the Boy Scouts of America’s official policy banning gays from leadership positions.) Some of the author’s stories are quite moving—particularly those addressing his mother Terry’s multiple sclerosis—but many of Wahls’ epiphanies are unsurprising: “We are more alike than we are different”; “hate has no hope of ever erasing hate”; etc. The book works best when there's more levity amidst the earnestness, as when the author humorously answers questions he’s asked most frequently (e.g., “Which one of your moms is the man?”). Few minds will be changed by this book—it seems unlikely that a homophobe would read something titled My Two Moms—but Wahls’ heart is in the right place.

A sincere first effort that aims to chip away at stereotypes surrounding same-sex parents.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-592-40713-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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