Reviews of the Week with Bridget Quinn, Mychal Denzel Smith, Claudia Rankine, and More!

The Review of the Day has always been a brief, early way to spotlight exceptional upcoming titles on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

As we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and live through impactful protests against systemic racism, these upcoming titles in this week’s #ReviewsOfTheDay offer facts and perspectives for readers of all ages. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, August 31

She Votes: How U.S. Women Won Suffrage, and What Happened Next, by Bridget Quinn

In a time when women’s-suffrage histories are finally in abundance, Quinn’s illustrated compendium stands out (and not only through its vivid illustrations). With language that pulls no punches, she tells the story of women’s fight for equality, from the example set by the Haudenosaunee to the riot grrrl movement and the founders of Black Lives Matter. Spread throughout the volume are 100 artworks by 100 women artists, widely varying in style. These illustrations bring Quinn’s dynamic text to life even more, highlighting figures like activist Sojourner Truth, artist Mary Cassatt, and The Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan. The decades-longstruggle for the vote is compellingly told via both historical scenes and brief biographies.

Tuesday, September 1

The International Day of the Girl: Celebrating Girls around the World, by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Rona Ambrose and illustrated by Simone Shin

One of the many striking elements of this collaboration is how explicitly the authors depict sexism, leaving readers with no doubt as to the dangers that surround girls all over the world—dangers such as men who follow them with harmful intent, unsanitary school facilities, illiteracy, disability, and child marriage. This powerful book highlights nine fictional girls (all based on real interviews and research) from different corners of the globe, each of whom is struggling to bloom within a system that wants to keep her weak. Each spread features one girl, along with an attribute—“This is Hana. She is smart”; “This is Liliya. She is inventive”—as well as deeper context, allowing readers to get to know her as a person with whom they are sure to find common ground.

Wednesday, September 2

Stakes Is High: Life after the American Dream, by Mychal Denzel Smith

Journalist Smith (Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching, 2016) takes on the failure and possibility of the American dream in this slim, impactful book. While Stakes Is High begins with Donald Trump’s election, Smith makes it clear that Trump is a symptom of a bigger disease: the belief in an America whose ideals set it apart from other countries, an America in which hard work ensures success, an America that offers liberty and justice for all. “As Americans,” Smith writes, “we are eager . . . to believe the most flattering narratives about ourselves.” But the truth is darker. The American dream takes inequality as its central premise, a baseline state of being that hard workers may aspire to rise above.

Thursday, September 3

The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth, edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

For some, “The Talk” is a form of insuring life and survival. For others, it’s facing the reality of the covert ways that their worth is diminished and even trivialized. Still, there are those for whom “The Talk” is a harrowing realization of the systems of oppression from which they benefit. In this collection of short stories, letters, and poems, the defining factor of “The Talk” is race and racial identity. From letters affirming the beauty of being bilingual, to preparing young Black children for encounters with the police, and even a perspective shift on criminalization of certain peoples by way of Greek mythology, there are hard lessons that this collection takes on with a spirit of loving urgency. Contributors include children’s authors such as Grace Lin, Duncan Tonatiuh, and Christopher Myers, among others, spanning a range of diverse racial backgrounds and vantage points as they address young people about the weight and severity of racial inequities in the U.S.

Friday, September 4

Just Us: An American Conversation, by Claudia Rankine

Six years after her groundbreaking Citizen: An American Lyric, Rankine presents another arresting blend of essays and images, perfectly attuned to this long-overdue moment of racial reckoning. In language all the more devastating for its simplicity, Rankine analyzes the overwhelming power of whiteness in everyday interactions. Whether it’s the white airline passenger who steps confidently in front of her in the first class line (“I understood my presence as an unexpected emotion for him”) or a college friend who has no memory of a campus cross burning, whiteness erases Black lives and perceptions, stranding Black people in a nebulous gaslight dimension, their Blackness “a most disagreeable mirror.” A white man chides the flight attendant for serving him while ignoring Rankine, yet fails to make the racial connection; Rankine wryly observes that white people can see the results of white privilege yet stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the cause.'

About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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