Tuesday, June 14, 2011

About David Reich's The Antiracism Trainings

The tl;dr: Five stars of five if you're interested in the history of Unitarian Universalism and antiracism theory, four stars if you're interested in antiracism theory and institutional power ploys, three stars otherwise.

The longer take: If I had not had my own encounters with Antiracism Theorists, I wouldn't have read this in a rush. It has objective virtues: Reich has the clean style you would expect of an experienced journalist, and he has a good sense of pacing. On the other hand, his sense of humor isn't mine, the book feels a bit long, and this just isn't a novel. It's a thinly disguised—make that, very thinly disguised—memoir. Calling UUs "Yoonies" and changing, for example, the Rev. Thandeka to the Rev. Malika, simply distracted me.

I also wish he'd told the story chronologically. If you're tempted to read it, don't be put off by the opening section. Reich says he shuffled the chronology in order to focus on one character, but I think that was as mistaken as George Lucas's decision to focus on Darth Vader. What's interesting isn't the arc of one character. It's the broader story of an institution trying to deal with people whose goals are admirable and whose tactics are not.

Bits from two reviews that struck me:

uuworld.org : book review of 'the antiracism trainings': "Readers will disagree about how much this mirror distorts history, but Reich’s novel does offer an informed critique of recent UUA history. That, and not its literary merit, is what it will be remembered for."

Mutizwa: The Antiracism Trainings by David Reich: "Instead of these hard-to-take-seriously antiracism trainings, an authentically progressive and productive liberal institution would hold something closer to anti-dogma trainings—sessions that pay more homage to open-ended arcs of thinking and respectful articulations of dissent."