An informative, fresh history of food in America.

FOODTOPIA

COMMUNITIES IN PURSUIT OF PEACE, LOVE, & HOMEGROWN FOOD

An educator and editor shares her appetite for health and justice.

The back-to-the-land movement associated with the 1970s is part of a long trajectory that began in the 19th century and continues in the present. Kelley, an enthusiastic vegetable gardener, looks at five periods—in the 1840s, 1900s, 1930s, 1960s, and, most recently, in the 2010s—during which similar efforts took root. “These utopian experimenters,” she writes, “have daisy-chained into being an enduring counterforce to the mainstream ethos, one that’s based on a love of freedom, equality, reciprocity—and good food.” In 1845, industrialization and “agricultural capitalism” sent Thoreau to Walden Pond. “The young freedom seeker recognized this change made farming and food production more centralized, more monopolistic, less healthful, and less conducive to freedom,” Kelley asserts. “He set out to prove that an alternative conducive to freedom was still possible.” Thoreau’s singular experiment was echoed in some 80 communities—Fruitlands and Brook Farm are two of the most well known—scattered throughout New England and the Midwest. All “sought a greater sense of freedom, equality, the abolition of slavery, and communal sufficiency.” Later, inequality of access to food, alarm about adulteration and pesticides, and the rise of supermarkets promoting canned and frozen food all inspired efforts to find viable ways to reject agribusiness. Kelley’s well-populated narrative includes Scott and Helen Nearing, whose Living the Good Life became a transformative text for many idealistic farmers; Mollie Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook; and Alice Waters, who sparked a food revolution from her Berkeley restaurant. Recounting her visits to farms, conferences, and farmers markets, Kelley offers lively profiles of men and women “intimately and integrally connected to utopians who came before or after them, who inspired or affirmed them, who believed that land is a common good, that farming should be a healthful enterprise, that food should nourish bodies and spirits.”

An informative, fresh history of food in America.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-56792-730-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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