A must-own compendium illustrating the richness, joy, and power of the modern Black experience.

BLACK FUTURES

A dynamic mixed-media exhibition of Black creativity and culture.

“What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?” Born of a social media exchange between curator and activist Drew and New York Times Magazine staff writer Wortham, this unique collaboration seeks to answer that question. The work is vivid, juicy, thick—as fecund as all of Black culture—and equal parts anthology, scrapbook, and art exhibition. The editors and contributors make clear the “infinite” nature of Blackness via more than 500 crammed pages of essays, art, interviews, and ephemera organized around broad themes that include “Power,” “Joy,” and “Black is (Still) Beautiful.” The “Invited to the Cookout” section features pictures of the social media posts that birthed the Black Lives Matter movement and a survival guide instructing “How To Survive a Police Riot,” which includes useful, pointed directives—e.g., “Be alert for spies and paid agents….Do not respond to unknown calls for action of mass meetings. Act as if your life depended on everything you do.” In “Power,” we learn about Dust II Onyx, a tarot deck that lovingly mines the power of Black custom and imagery, as well as the inventive legacy of African farmers: “Our ancestral grandmothers in the Dahomey region of West Africa braided seeds of okra, molokhia, and Levant cotton into their hair before being forced to board transatlantic slave ships.” Ziwe Fumudoh explores how the Twitter hashtag #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies revealed the unique humor and tradition of a Black holiday, and Teju Cole offers an essay about the photography of Roy DeCarava, who captured the civil rights movement with contemplative pictures that played with the shadow and light of Black skin. In addition to introducing readers to numerous unknown artists, the editors of the volume include a host of luminaries: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Samantha Irby, Dawoud Bey, Hanif Abdurraqib, Zadie Smith, and Kiese Laymon.

A must-own compendium illustrating the richness, joy, and power of the modern Black experience.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-18113-9

Page Count: 544

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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