An urgent, novel interpretation of a foundational freedom that, the author makes clear, is a freedom only for some.

THE SECOND

RACE AND GUNS IN A FATALLY UNEQUAL AMERICA

The author of White Rage (2016) returns with a powerful consideration of the Second Amendment as a deliberately constructed instrument of White supremacy.

“The Second is lethal,” writes Emory historian Anderson: “steeped in anti-Blackness, it is the loaded weapon laying around just waiting for the hand of some authority to put it to use.” In 1906 in Atlanta, where Emory is located, one such use was made when a White mob attacked Black businesses and neighborhoods in a kind of mass lynching. “Let’s kill all the Negroes so our women will be safe,” yelled one instigator. When armed Black citizens responded, the Georgia government immediately sent in the cavalry, not to protect the neighborhoods but to suppress what was tantamount to a modern slave revolt. And it was precisely to suppress revolts, Anderson argues, that the “well-regulated militia” language of the Second was formulated. Militias and slave patrols were one and the same in several Southern colonies and then states, and only Whites could enlist, meaning that only Whites were legally allowed to carry firearms. Indeed, as Anderson carefully documents, many states specifically forbade Blacks from owning or carrying firearms, even after emancipation. Many leaders in the Southern states were fearful because of the success of the Haitian revolution, which, though inspired by both the French and American revolutions, also extended suffrage and political power to free Blacks. The Second Amendment, writes the author, helped reinforce the Constitution’s “three-fifths” clause, a means of disempowering Blacks politically forevermore. Today, the racial component of the Second is starkly revealed in police shootings and the National Rifle Association’s reticence to defend Black gun owners and police victims even while leaping to the defense of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, whose attorneys tellingly claimed that he was a member of a “well-regulated militia.” Writing evenhandedly and with abundant examples, Anderson makes a thoroughly convincing case.

An urgent, novel interpretation of a foundational freedom that, the author makes clear, is a freedom only for some.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-425-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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