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August 20, 2021

George Ernsberger
Posted 8/20/21

Learning in Public by Courtney E. Martin (Little, Brown).

This book will have you cringing when I’m only half through describing it—even as I’m telling you, well, but, you should …

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August 20, 2021

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Learning in Public by Courtney E. Martin (Little, Brown).

This book will have you cringing when I’m only half through describing it—even as I’m telling you, well, but, you should be reading it, though…It’s inspiring, even though you won’t agree with all of it, or approve of it all, even. This brave—and principled, by the way, both as citizens and as parents—White family move into a gentrifying, historically Black neighborhood of Oakland, California. They are, of course, themselves gentrifiers, in the fullest, even stereotyped sense, which is to say, not just White but (doubling down) from Brooklyn. So, they looked over the schools. There were private schools nearby that they could afford, and that were slightly (and perhaps dutifully) mixed, racially. The neighborhood public school, still nearly all Black in enrollment, struggled as schools with that history in neighborhoods with that history (uh-h … American history, that is) typically do. And enrolled their 7-year-old daughter in that public school. And wackiness doesn’t ensue, or have anything to do with anything, here. Mistakes are made, some of them even comic, but nothing—and nobody—here is a joke. There are smart and thoughtful people on all sides (and some not so much of either; we’re still on Earth). One of them, the mom in this family, wrote this book. All of them—well, all remotely capable of it—and I, have learned and grown, and so might you.

The Turnout by Megan Abbot (Putnam).

It’s Megan Abbot, and it’s one of her very best, so it’s a great psychological thriller, but that mightn’t be enough to say of this one. It’s set in a ballet school, and I’ve had only the quickest peek into one of those, but if you’ve ever seen ballet you won’t doubt a page of this. She gets both the beauty of it as art and the near-brutal hardness of it as work (to love it you have to love—at least believe in—both). And so you believe even more than usual (if that were possible, where Abbot’s concerned) the twistiness that its pursuit might entail.

Class Act by Stuart Woods (Putnam).

Stone Barrington, back in New York, and tangling, now, with the Mafia. This is the almost inhumanly prolific, consistently lively and enjoyable Woods’s 90th (not a typo) novel. You won’t expect the tightest plotting, here—not that kind of writer, not that kind of thriller—but Stuart Woods does not tire, or fail to deliver, yes, thrills, to the very last page.

Palm Beach by Mary Adkins (Harper).

Very nice, full-value novel of a struggling, likable young couple who become strangers in the strange land of the title—maybe the ritziest place in Florida. So, a sort of travel book, too, and even a trifle exotic; rich doesn’t mean quite the same here as anywhere else. So they, and we with them, discover that Florida’s more complicated than most visitors, or even retirees, ever suspect.

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