RaveSlateThe new book is much, much longer than the magazine version, and easier to read, despite its heft. Timeline pages provide a necessary chronological anchor for the essays, which move backward and forward in time ... Poetry and fiction runs throughout the book and is inspired by the events in the timeline cards, providing more grounding in the \'dates and names\' of the history—a neat trick, given the essays’ thematic nature; it might otherwise be easy to get lost. The magazine’s shorter sidebar essays appear to have been cut, or, in some cases, absorbed or adapted into the longer essays, which makes things much more pleasingly symmetrical ... If I have a quibble with this mosaic of a book, which achieves the impossible on so many levels—moving from argument to fiction to argument, from theme to theme, and backward and forward in time, so smoothly—it’s the amount of 2020 in it.
MixedSlateI almost couldn’t get through the new Powers, not because of the earnestness or the piety (though those were very real and very annoying), but because its failed ambition was so big and so honest ... Robin’s emotions are on overdrive, and a lot of the book is very difficult to read, because the strange intensity (and accompanying transience) of kids’ feelings is hard to represent well ... There may yet be a great novel to write about children’s climate anxiety. The topic combines two terrible parental worries: the child may be unhappy; the world may be broken. (Or: The child may be broken; the world may be unhappy.) Bewilderment is a few shades too lumpy, sincere, and strangely plotted to be it. But the road is open for the next.
PositiveSlateA third of the way through...I found myself less enjoying the author’s fine prose, and more doing the thing that parenting Instagram accounts beg you not to do: judging ... My judge-y, \'you’re in your own way\' feeling, so familiar to me from late-night Facebook parenting group browsing, wasn’t the one I was expecting to have while reading this book. I’ve gulped down the other titles in the little emerging canon of 21st century literary motherhood—Galchen, Cusk, Kiesling—with a sense of deep recognition, happy to finally see my own Feelings and Experiences rendered in beautiful prose. But I read my way through Yoder’s narrator’s catalog of domestic woes not nodding my head at the way motherhood \'is,\' but instead flinching at the ways this mother is making herself a martyr. This is good. It’s good to have a range of these beautifully executed treatments of motherhood, which is not, after all, a universal experience ... This daily need for accommodation between parent and toddler as they move out of the honeymoon phase is, as they say, \'the work,\' but it’s not a very interesting plot for a book ... There are parts of the book that seem to be trying too hard—I could do without the subplot where the narrator reads a mysterious book about magical women and sends long letters to its author. But as a meditation on the radical evolution parenthood demands, it’s perfect. Nightbitch proposes that a person can find resolution to the contradiction between selfhood and parenthood, but only by becoming something strange, impossible, and a little bit disgusting.
Joshua D. Rothman
RaveSlate... tremendous ... a careful biography of a very successful business with unflinching attention to the monstrosity that business was built upon ... othman’s book never strays far from the fact that this big business was built on forced removal, a process that entailed, for the people being trafficked, a tremendous amount of pain ... distills these crucial questions to their core.
PanSlateThis is a heartfelt book that’s full of perfectly fine advice, wrapped in a story of some experiences that obviously changed this particular mother’s life, all built on a premise that should make us feel very queasy ... I say the advice is \'fine\' because almost every bit of it is something I’d heard before, coming out of the interconnected worlds of Western parenting guidance that self-describe as \'respectful,\' \'gentle,\' \'peaceful,\' \'unconditional,\' and \'Montessori-\' or \'Waldorf-inspired.\'I point all this out not to discount the value of the parenting traditions Doucleff distills for her book, but just to note that there is no need to go on quickie expeditions to far-flung villages to get this advice. These ideas still aren’t mainstream, to be sure, but you might simply start reading, following people whose bios have the right keywords on Instagram, and joining Facebook groups full of parents who are also struggling to reframe our cultural scripts around early childhood ... Looking at some of the advice in Doucleff’s book, I think about how the idea that children can’t be trusted, which results in so much stress and struggle, goes all the way back to the Puritans and is deeply ingrained in our culture ... But this book is different from its predecessors. These aren’t European countries Doucleff visits, and so the power dynamic between writer and subject is not the same ... Doucleff knows that this problem exists. There’s a section in the book acknowledging it, without which Hunt, Gather, Parent would be even more preposterous ... The plain truth is, without the idea that these cultures contain \'ancient magic,\' the whole narrative wouldn’t work, and the book would not sell ... There’s something very familiar (and ridiculous) about the spectacle of the overwhelmed white parent, begging Native women to teach her how to be happy in her role as a mother ... And despite its best intentions, that’s what this book does: It frames tribal parents as eternally happy, and Western parents, who in truth possess every material advantage, as miserable victims of circumstance.
RaveSlateI fell in love with Neil Price’s comprehensive new history of the Vikings when I got to the paragraph that’s just a list of bread ... offers delight after delight ... If you, like me, have loved fictional Viking stories and have always wanted to read a fuller history informed by current scholarship but wondered where to start, this book is it ... Price has produced a single (albeit lengthy!) volume that offers a sense of chronology and hits the major high points, while also introducing nonspecialists to the major questions that those who know a lot about Vikings still consider unresolved ... manages to be lyrical, unnerving, specific, and passionately uncertain, all at once ... Throughout this book are glorious collections of Viking facts that are technically known yet still resist our best attempts at interpretation ... Price diverges periodically from his tone of easy erudition to make conversational, enthusiastic asides. These can be pretty funny ... Price has a talent for evoking the Vikings’ physical surroundings as they might have been—a gift for recreation that’s probably natural for an archaeologist accustomed to eking significance from the smallest bit of disturbed dirt ... To convey such a deep sense of scholarly indeterminacy, all while dazzling the reader with cinematic detail—this is, truly, a feat.
RaveSlate[A] painful, beautiful new book ... Krivak’s descriptions of this forested world, so loving and vivid that you can feel the lake water and smell the sea, make the answer clear: It’s because there’s joy to be found in carrying on ... If there’s anything to quibble with in this beautiful book, it’s the utopianism of this vision of the circularity of man’s relationship to the land ... Written less subtly, this could feel like another fantasy about white return to the land. But this is also a story of ultimate loss, leaving us with no uncertainty about the future of humanity ... a perfect fable for the age of solastalgia.
PanSlateWhen it comes to representing \'pioneers\' as isolated and hardworking idealists fighting off \'threats\' from residents of the land they are taking, this book is a true throwback. Its success shows how big the gap between critical history and the \'popular history\' that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains ... Native peoples hover around the edges of the first section of the book, a cartoonishly threatening presence to the good New England transplants ... In taking a side, narratively speaking, McCullough makes sure their narrow perspective on the matter also becomes ours ... McCullough is approvingly repeating one of the founding myths that justified stealing land from Native tribes—and it doesn’t seem like he even knows it ... shows exactly why \'popular\' histories aren’t always narratively satisfying. When you commit yourself to celebrating a group of people—to repeating platitudes they wrote about each other and not looking at outlying evidence too carefully—things get boring quickly ... Even when McCullough does include interesting evidence, the kind that contradicts his hagiography a little, he seems utterly resistant to analyzing it.
Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
PositiveSlate...stunning ... It’s these assumptions about female slaveowning as a kind of passive, half-hearted practice that Jones-Rogers is challenging with her book—and with them, the idea that white women were innocent bystanders to the white male practice of enslavement ... Jones-Rogers began this shift in historical perspective by looking away from letters and diaries of elite white women that formed the documentary basis for earlier histories, and toward the testimony of the people who had been in bondage.