PositiveLos Angeles TimesIt should be easy to write off The Light We Carry, by former First Lady Michelle Obama — with its toolbox framework, motivational one-liners and inspirational quotes from Toni Morrison, John Lewis and Maya Angelou — as a clichéd self-help manual, an easy holiday-season layup after putting in the hard work on her mega-bestselling memoir, Becoming. Among the reasons it’s not so easy to dismiss are the indefatigable humility of its author and, perhaps more importantly, the resolute necessity of a book like this right now ... Both personal and practical ... It’s her simultaneously set and blooming self-awareness that appeals — here and throughout the book ... We’re all in this together, Obama is saying. Which again may sound a bit cliché, but I for one am very happy to be reminded of this fact, especially if it comes with some choice anecdotes.
André Leon Talley
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewIn America, if you are black and aim higher than the reach history has set for you, the white gaze will try to leech your spirit of its racial identity. Very often, it will succeed. Such is the case with the fashion fixture and former Vogue editor at large André Leon Talley, whose memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, is at once a summing-up of his decades-long career and a pointed commentary on how whiteness works ... Can his blackness simultaneously be unimportant, and also allow him to stand out among white titans? ... And yet, Talley doesn’t directly challenge anyone about the racism. His time working at Ebony magazine gets a single chapter, revealing little about what it was like to be embraced by black industry insiders who were proving to be as important in the fashion world as their white counterparts ... By the time we arrive at the point where Talley admits, \'I’m not belittling myself to say my strength was in my ability to be beside a small, great, powerful white woman,\' he has already belittled himself in about 50 different ways ... For all its name-dropping, backstabbing, outsize egos, vivid description and use of words like \'bespoke\' and \'sang-froid\' The Chiffon Trenches is less about the fashion elite than it is about a black boy from the rural South who got swallowed whole by the white gaze and was spit out as a too-large black man when he no longer fit the narrative. But the white gaze has done its work, and Talley’s disconnect to blackness — his own and others’ — is palpable.
PositiveLos Angeles Times\"In Becoming, Obama doesn’t write so much as talks to her readers as she always has to a nation that fell in love with her — in clear, frank and forthcoming terms, as a black woman in America with a bridge called her back and a wisdom to lay bare ... A few parts of Becoming read as overly detail-oriented and impersonal... maybe a practiced instinct from her days of writing legal memos. But she more than makes up for any moments of remove as soon as Barack comes onto the scene, because she clearly was not ready for this freewheeling guy from Hawaii with a funny name, who immediately brings out the best in her ... What is revelatory is that by the end of Becoming, who Michelle Obama was before she was FLOTUS is a woman you feel glad and grateful to have back in our midst — the striver, an astonishing mix of resilience, joy, pragmatism and grace.\
MixedThe Los Angeles Times\"Surely, Alam did not set out to create an unlikeable character, and there are moments of real vulnerability in Rebecca...And yet, whatever maternal instinct she has stops at exploring or considering race ... Gradually, we see what it looks like for Rebecca to become the white mother of a black child — through the eyes of a Bangladeshi American gay man raising black adopted children with his white husband in an upper-middle class neighborhood. And the truth is, whether intentional or not, Alam has hit the nail squarely on the head. His is an exceedingly accurate portrait of the many white women who have adopted black children in America ... This, though, is why Alam\'s novel is so important. That Kind of Mother offers a blueprint for how not to be a white mother of a black child, while also, to a careful reader, prompting questions for prospective white adoptive parents of black children. And more broadly speaking, what does it tell us that a gay brown adoptive father of two black children chose to tell the story of interracial adoption by centering it on the experience of a white woman?\
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesMessud is an absolute master storyteller and bafflingly good writer ... It is that combination of imagination and skill that makes The Burning Girl exceptional, more so than the story itself, which sometimes veers into the ordinary and unexamined ... The Burning Girl is at its best when it amplifies that subtle, piercing shift between Cassie and Julia, made brighter by passages of sheer splendorous prose.
RaveThe Los Angeles Times...a bracingly vivid account of how intellect, emotion and physicality speak to each other and work in tireless tandem to not just survive unspeakable hurt, but to create a life worth living and celebrating. The critical beauty of Hunger is that Gay is so much smarter than everyone who has judged her based on her appearance, which she manages to convey without airs or ever actually stating this as fact. Her candor and self-awareness are necessary and reliable guides for the poignantly afflicted journey ... Undestroyed, unruly, unfettered, Ms. Gay, live your life. We are all better for having you do so in the same ferociously honest fashion that you have written this book.
Timothy B. Tyson
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesIn painstaking, often difficult to read detail, Tyson reaches into the chest cavity of America and pulls out its bloody heart with this acute retelling of Till’s barbaric murder. Even if his own Southern white do-gooder bias occasionally peeks out from behind the otherwise elegant and sophisticated prose, Tyson effectively recasts the killing of an innocent black boy, re-investigates the subsequent trial that took place during the heat of a Mississippi summer when each day the county sheriff would greet the black press on his way into court with a cheerful 'good morning' and a racial epithet ... Tyson successfully connects the dots, and without actually saying so, draws a resolute if symbolic line between Emmett Till and Tamir Rice, and the white supremacist foreground of this country.
MixedThe Los Angeles TimesLowery zigzags from Ferguson, to Cleveland, to Charleston and New York City in an effort to create a backdrop that captures the riots, the grief, the tear gas and the emotional upheaval in places around the country that became markers of modern-day lynchings in near lockstep ... At its best, They Can’t Kill Us All reads like the (often messy) anatomy of a national uprising in the wake of extraordinary black pain ... While stunning in the blunt gravity of facts regarding the killings of innocent black boys and men by police, the book only adds texture and nuance to this narrative if you haven’t been paying attention ... He seems as lost in the mayhem of black death, police violence and the legacy of virulent racism as both the people on the ground and those of us reading through these pages. Maybe that’s the point. It’s about the emotional mayhem.
RaveThe Los Angeles Times...a fiercely salient reckoning of what it means, has meant and continues to mean to be black in America ... it is a great book — beautifully written, vigorous in its horror and proxy for historical truth.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Times...at once a magnification and a distillation of our existence as black people in a country we were not meant to survive. It is a straight tribute to our strength, endurance and grace ... Between the World and Me is the story of two black men bound together by blood – in this case, Coates and his son. Which, on its own, is fine. What is less fine is the near-complete absence of black women throughout the book.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesSome of what's covered in the book is already well-trod ground — financial solvency is central to independence; marriage is still considered the end goal for many; white male conservatives still think single women are ruining everything — but the exemplary framework of cultural inclusion, the personal candor and palpable desire to lift up each and every one of us, is what makes All the Single Ladies a singularly triumphant work of women presented in beautiful formation.
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesIn Negroland, Jefferson is simultaneously looking in and looking out at her blackness, elusive in her terse, evocative reconnaissance, leaving us yearning to know more.