cover image Black Women's Lives: Stories of Pain and Power

Black Women's Lives: Stories of Pain and Power

Kristal Brent Zook, . . Nation, $15.95 (263pp) ISBN 978-1-56025-790-5

An organic farmer, a union organizer, a teenage lesbian stabbed to death in a hate crime and the president of a cosmetics company that makes hair relaxer all get their stories told in this anthology of Zook's articles for Essence magazine. As a reporter, Zook has a passion for social justice, and her best chapters focus on public health issues that disproportionately affect impoverished black women and children. She writes about a woman in Birmingham, Ala., for example, who fights companies that want to dump toxic chemicals in working-class or black areas and who started a group dedicated to raising awareness of lead poisoning in children, the major symptoms of which—hyperactivity and aggression—are precisely those of attention deficit disorder. In another chapter, Zook explores the possible causes behind the high rates of HIV/AIDS among black women in small Southern towns, among them low self-esteem, mistrust of doctors and an unwillingness to challenge men about their sexual histories. Zook (Color by Fox: The Fox Network and the Revolution in Black Television ) has a weakness for clichés and a tendency to gush about how her subjects "empowered" her, both of which detract from the raw power of the stories she tells. (Mar.)