PanLos Angeles Review of BooksIt is odd that, while the kernel of content in this book is formed around a structural critique—one that would appear to demand a very specific political response—it comes to us cushioned in an equal bulk of light, fleecy padding that draws the attention pleasantly away from such partisan concerns. \'I want to be able to meet at a wine bar,\' Zakaria writes, \'and have an honest conversation about change.\' It is surely a reasonable wish, but a minimal demand. Zakaria’s central, well-researched chapters are framed on one side by a series of encounters with obnoxious white women; and on the other by a call to action that reads as an incitement to better etiquette. Despite brief gestures at white supremacy’s deep \'political\' roots, these chapters call for us simply to \'excise\' unpalatable behaviors ... it allows the reader to fantasize the curative effect of expelling bad white women ... Occasionally the project of rhetorical excision gets out of hand, the iconoclastic urge appearing to overwhelm critical honesty ... a more interesting question than why white women can be so defensive is the question of why, until directly challenged, they see no wrongdoing to defend ... The reference, moreover to \'political reality\' as a matter of pure \'experience\' is more than just an oversimplification. It is a framing determined to avoid demanding that the reader hold certain commitments ... We sense that Zakaria is writing not only of what she perceives as the \'tiny attention spans of white women,\' but also, and unfortunately, for them.
PositiveThe White Review (UK)... not so much Kushner’s own memoir as a group biography of recklessness. Contained within her flippant self-construction-as-bore is in fact a claim on the exciting—a suggestion that the writer’s own softness is key to her accurate rendering of others’ hardness ... A flirtation with self-deprecation turns by a literary sleight of hand to a lofty self-appointment. Not boring after all but rather a vessel for excitement—the voice of a brood of Californian kids, a kind of Joan Didion for our times ... Kushner’s relations with her subjects have an air of ethical unevenness. Where her connection with a wounded child refugee starts with a vested interest—beginning with the intention to write—the child is rendered more of an instrument than, say, a friend who merely happens to be interesting. Kushner’s strategy as an essayist, however—here is the real departure from Didion—is to grapple with precisely this problem ... If Kushner’s essays are records of a certain incapacity, never do they entertain the idea of nothing to conclude. They posit a kind of authority that is bounded by what is subjective without lapsing through interiority into grammars of bewildered emotion. It is not enough, for Kushner, simply to report her feelings about bygone lives, nor to reduce her truth claims to the statement ‘I was there’. She wants us to know what happened between her and her hard crowd, however remote the encounter.