PanSlate... miss[es] an opportunity to explore, through the eyes of a character who has an awareness of the chilling nature of her experience and her interactions with white antagonists, the deeper levels of mundane yet terrifying psychological warfare that Black women experience in white workplaces ... a fairly straightforward, race-bent take on a typical legal conspiracy thriller. Anyone who’s read a John Grisham novel will be familiar with the broad strokes ... Ellice, despite having a law degree and being a Black woman in white corporate America, displays a stunning lack of self-preservation that veers into the fantastic ... Her naïveté about the ways in which racism operates in her workplace and the larger world isn’t just unrealistic—it denies the reader the experience of feeling horrified by it ... The lack of depth defangs any tension that arises, stripping...the layers of fear and anxiety that could make them truly scary and leaving the readers with what is at times boring.
Zakiya Dalila Harris
MixedSlateThe sense of being a fraud in the face of Hazel’s \'more authentic\' Blackness is one of the book’s more interesting themes ... It’s never clear if we’re supposed to sympathize with Nella’s plight, or if lines that describe her soul as \'sounding a lot like Angela Davis\' are intended to endear her to us or make us cringe ... That lack of clarity extends to the plot, which can be described, at best, as politically confused ... there are murky (and underexplained) forces at play here, forces that ultimately deny Hazel her agency.
Richard Thompson Ford
PositiveSlateDress Codes traces nearly 600 years of fashion law and social norms, detailing how style and attempts to control it have shaped history. Perhaps nowhere is the boundary between the personal and the political, the individual and the state, more blurred than in the clothes that we put on our bodies. Ford argues persuasively that fashion as we know it is largely the result of the Enlightenment-era school of thought ... Changes in dress codes and fashion law tend to emerge during periods of intense social change. It makes sense, then, that these dress codes often police expressions of sexuality or attempt to create visual boundaries between racial, religious, class, and gender categories ... Ford is an apt cultural historian, and he’s at his strongest when tracing the changing winds that produced modern dress codes ... He pays deft attention to the ways marginalized people use fashion either to assimilate or to repudiate the dominant culture, touching on everything from the use of respectability politics in the civil rights movement to the reclamation of the hijab ... Dress Codes feels rushed at times; squeezing six centuries’ worth of history into one book is a massive undertaking ... Still, Dress Codes largely manages what it sets out to do.
MixedSlateGod Save Texas is a searing indictment of the cruel partisanship that is, along with oil, Texas’ main export. But it’s also a tender defense of the beauty of \'a culture that is still raw, not fully formed … dangerous and magnificent in its potential.\' It is both an apologia for the past and a roadmap for the future of the state—a roadmap that ranges as far and wide as the West Texas plains ... As with his previous books...he has a great talent for at once characterizing broad systemic forces and making them intensely personal. In God Save Texas, his most compelling chapters feel less like a testament to his reportage than to his skills as a cultural analyst and as an autobiographer ... There is no doubt that Wright knows Texas, but ... Over and over again, I found myself getting frustrated at Wright’s inability—or unwillingness—to analyze race and the ways in which it so clearly defines Texas’ future. And it’s unfortunate that this is where he stumbles. The culture that Wright describes—the maligned root of so much of American culture overall—is one that black people know all too well.