RaveThe New York Times Book Review... a mesmerizing reminder that this divide between Black and white is a false binary ... the story of [Jerkins\'] personal heritage, and its erasure within her own family, reveals the reductive power of the white gaze to flatten the complexities of Black lineage ... Hers is a journey that exists at the crossroads of so much contemporary analysis of the African-American experience ... Like these other masterly recent works, Wandering in Strange Lands is in many ways a quintessentially American story, one that posits the South as a motherland where, as Beyoncé recently declared, one’s \'roots ain’t watered down\' ... This is one of the many profound injustices Jerkins describes powerfully yet accessibly. Her writing has a light touch as it takes on subjects like land dispossession, punitive taxation, a lack of public services, and environmental contamination, blending them seamlessly with the tastes of couche-couche, chitlins and crawfish étouffée ... The tone of the book feels as meandering as its subject matter, verging on repetitive at times; but Jerkins herself confesses her task is Sisyphean. She has a gift for turning circular stories of identity into something conclusive ... Her task is also courageous. Jerkins approaches territory that is taboo even in Black circles: the complexities of caste and colorism within Creole culture, the denial of Black claims to citizenship in Native nations, even the fraught question of whether it was possible for sex between master and slave to be consensual ... Jerkins makes plain that denying space for Black identities in history is itself a legacy as American as its original sins of racism and enslavement. By exploring the truth of that past with such integrity, this memoir enriches our future.
Ibram X. Kendi
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Kendi’s argument is brilliantly simple ... One of the easiest things to relate to in Kendi’s hypothesis, which puts it in line with other contemporary books about racism and inequality, is his withering attack on the idea of being \'not racist\' ... [Kendi\'s] honesty in linking his personal struggles to the work he has now undertaken is one of the most powerful elements in this compelling book ... In other ways Kendi raises more questions than he answers. Stories about his parents, who met in the black liberation theology movement, before his mother went off to work as a missionary in Liberia, feel unfinished. He hints that he ultimately rejected the Christian beliefs with which he was raised, but steps away from narrating when and why. His stories of being an uninterested and not particularly compassionate child seem half-told ... is more like a textbook than I would like, but then there is much schooling to be done ... This is a dogmatic book, but that should be no surprise given that the title takes the form of a \'How To\'. Kendi gets away with the instructional tone, both because of the work he has put in, and because of his ability to face up to his own flaws.
RaveTIMEQueenie as a tragicomic story of womanhood, updated for the Tinder age perhaps, with a black body occupying a space already familiar to its white predecessors. But that would be to profoundly underestimate this debut novel, which tells a far deeper story than the one it has been compared to. Candice Carty-Williams, a young Londoner, has a flair for story-telling that appears effortlessly authentic. Her title character is a woman you both know and cannot forget ... Carty-Williams manages to engage the head and the heart, plunging the reader into Queenie’s descent, while simultaneously helping us unpack it ... This is the fertile heart of Carty-Williams’ writing: complex dynamics of interracial friendship, of the gaps that exist between generations, layered with the specific intricacy of a Jamaican immigrant family and the blurring boundaries of workplace relationships, are spun into an entertaining seam ... Carty-Williams has taken a black woman’s story and made it a story of the age.
PositiveThe Guardian\"Becoming is a 400-page expansion of this essential doctrine, without compromising a refreshing level of honestly about what politics really did to her ... There are compelling insights into the sorrow of miscarriage, the loneliness of living with a man whose sense of purpose often left little room for anything else, prompting her to seek couples counselling lest their marriage fall apart ... Becoming reads as Obama’s first intervention into this distressing new reality. It definitely does not read like it will be the last.\
Kwame Anthony Appiah
MixedThe ObserverAre we, I wondered after reading Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Lies That Bind, entering a new phase of European Romanticism? A repeat of the era in which leaders sought to distil the idea of the volk ... Being a philosopher, and a very erudite one at that, Appiah doesn’t so much answer these questions as pose them in newly lucid ways ... Appiah’s breadth of scholarship allows him to create connections that would otherwise be hard to come by. Nationality is brilliantly deconstructed through the lens of 19th-century Europe ... Wherever the eminent philosopher seems to tread, he leaves a trail of scholarly references in his wake. Add the particulars of his own life—descended from elite families in both Ghana and England; mixed-race, transnational and gay—and it makes sense that he would have a great deal to contribute. But there is something unsatisfying about the book too. Having problematized all of our labels, Appiah is indecisive about whether they should continue to bind us or not ... We are fixed in our identities, yet Appiah says we should not be fixed. There is barely a word in his book I don’t agree with, but I wish they added up to something more solid.