Kate explores being kind and staying alive, in simple, straightforward language and with clear, specific guidance. I love this book with a passion. It...moreKate explores being kind and staying alive, in simple, straightforward language and with clear, specific guidance. I love this book with a passion. It's a great read when I'm in a dark place, when I need help, when I'm feeling like an outcast, when I'm grounded but overwhelmed or when I'm just disappointed in the rest of the world.(less)
I can't speak to how this view of Malcolm's life compares to other accounts, having read no others yet. I would guess this is at the least a compassio...moreI can't speak to how this view of Malcolm's life compares to other accounts, having read no others yet. I would guess this is at the least a compassionate lens, and rather complex for the length of the story. It is beautifully rendered, and a great starting point to get past the thin stereotypes of him in mainstream American mythos. It leaves me wanting to know more about the man.(less)
One of the basic premises Eisner returns to throughout the book is that there is a pretty specific universality of meaning: that there is a wealth of...moreOne of the basic premises Eisner returns to throughout the book is that there is a pretty specific universality of meaning: that there is a wealth of detailed meaning humans hold in common, for most every gesture, facial expression, character stereotype, symbol, etc. Eisner defines a lot of comic success through the creator having access to a detailed understanding of a given reader's response (drawing on this wealth of common experience he thinks they share) and the creator manipulating that response skillfully. This is so foreign to my experience of storytelling and of people that the book stays pretty dry and inaccessible to me. With any level of diversity in a group of people, that common ground gets smaller and smaller. So basing storytelling success on mastering that sliver of ground quickly becomes pointless, and other narrative-building goals must be found.
Additionally, instead of systematically distilling comics down to more universal tools that various artists can approach in a variety of ways (Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics" does this quite well), there's a lot of meandering focus here on what Eisner thinks makes the best stories. I found this more useful as historical content than as instructional guidance. This may be of more use to someone who is a fan of his; though I know of his critical role in comics history I haven't read any of his work before.
Finally, as an echo of the first issue I mentioned, I nearly had to put the book down after the first 60 pages. Be warned that in that time we're treated to The Spirit's blackface-style African-American sidekick Ebony, a grown woman put over a man's knee and spanked, and multiple other moments of racist and sexist crap. Yes yes, that era, times were different, etc. That doesn't make it any less belittling, and that doesn't turn shit into good storytelling. It's not a coincidence that the artist who values stereotypes as the heart of his medium lazily relied on offensive available caricatures of any people with whom he did not share that much-talked about common experience.(less)
Being white, I don't feel equipped to offer any numerical rating on a book about black life and culture. But I'm glad I read this book and I will tell...moreBeing white, I don't feel equipped to offer any numerical rating on a book about black life and culture. But I'm glad I read this book and I will tell you a bit about what I learned.
In "We Real Cool" hooks describes "a crisis in the black male spirit in our nation", specifically the widespread adoption of definitions of patriarchal manhood and masculinity that are damaging black men from childhood on.
First she explores some key influences in current (2004) black culture. I was most moved, and overwhelmed really, to examine the myriad destructive forces bearing down on the outer and inner lives of young black boys of the most recent generations, from every direction and from a very early age. I was also startled to realize how lacking my understanding of intersectionality is in some respects; for example, hooks takes some time to unpack the harmful effects of white sexism on black men specifically, and there is impact far beyond what I realized.
The author describes too how black cultural trends changed during and after the civil rights movement, and chronicles the various influences of imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchal thinking as they infiltrate further and further into the collective psyche of black men and black women. hooks sees less and less forces of healing in black culture since the days of the civil rights movement, and finds patriarchal patterns of domination taking over ideas of black masculinity more and more over time, with few leaders offering resistance to these patterns.
She also names what she sees as the way forward. And while she very carefully unpacks the cultural damage that comes from structural racism, she also names the most immediate destructive forces - and the most immediate forces to address on an individual level - as those within the family. She names how structural racism and sexism have seeped into ideas of black parenting, and how these forces do damage within the home, creating hurt, shame and dysfunctional patterns that persist into adulthood. She names black male healers over the years and describes their strategies of resistance -- primarily focusing on self-awareness and willingness to be vulnerable. And she encourages black men to continue to find ways to resist imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal forces, and build more and more life-giving ways to claim manhood.
Just to mention a few characteristics of the book that could potentially be triggering or highly frustrating: hooks' approach here is entirely cisnormative and almost entirely heteronormative. The author also encourages staying connected to abusive parents to offer them and ourselves healing, and discourages distancing ourselves from abusive family members as an act that she believes cuts off healing. None of these were things I could get behind.(less)
This book changed my life... twice. It is indeed a workbook, asking its reader for time, thought, writing, questioning and doing. I didn’t have to agr...moreThis book changed my life... twice. It is indeed a workbook, asking its reader for time, thought, writing, questioning and doing. I didn’t have to agree with Kate’s theory or politics to get something out of the experience. I only had to be willing to consider her many questions, and see where my own answers took me. And I absolutely adore that Kate is a warm, kind and loving guide on the journey.
(The above is my 2013 review, after reading cover to cover. I read the first half in Fall 2010 and wrote the following: "I absolutely adore this book, despite having come across a lot of the content before. Kate's approach and underlying theory is delightful and thought-provoking. I am about halfway through the book, but I will be setting it down for a while, simply to fully absorb what I've read and thought about so far.")(less)
This mythic-style coming of age story quickly captured and held my attention, with vivid magical realism in a thoroughly realized dystopian vision, an...moreThis mythic-style coming of age story quickly captured and held my attention, with vivid magical realism in a thoroughly realized dystopian vision, and a fierce and imperfect heroine. It is an epic battle between good and evil by the end, with many warm, honest moments of love between some of the more complicated characters. Yes, the author made me cry.
Some parts get very intense, so the remainder of this paragraph is trigger warnings for the book: there's a character of great evil, responsible for a few scenes of both extreme physical violence and chilling psychological stress. There is some domestic violence described, and there is a disturbing paralytic drug used that keeps mental faculties intact while removing one's control over one's own body.(less)