An insightful book that paints a disturbing picture of the collapse of the working class and the growth of an upper class...

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OUR KIDS

THE AMERICAN DREAM IN CRISIS

A political scientist calls attention to the widening class-based opportunity gap among young people in the United States.

Putnam (Public Policy/Harvard Univ.; co-author: American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, 2010, etc.) author of the best-selling Bowling Alone (2000), argues that the American dream has faded for poor children in the past five decades. Beginning with the stories of individuals, he compares the opportunities for upward mobility in his hometown of Port Clinton, Ohio, when he was in high school (he graduated in 1959) with the situation today, and he finds tremendous differences. For getting ahead in the world, social class mattered relatively little then, but now it is paramount, and the institutions, both public and private, that helped young people of all backgrounds are no longer serving the disadvantaged well. Putnam expands his view from his hometown to a number of towns across the U.S., looking at how young people in different social classes fare. Using personal stories, statistics and studies, and focusing in turn on families, parenting, schooling and community, the author demonstrates that the class gap in America has been growing. Although there is a fair amount of repetition, occasional sociological jargon and perhaps too much use of illustrative personal stories, Putnam’s prose is highly readable, and the figures and tables that dot the text are generally simple and clear. In the final chapter, Putnam discusses what this disparity in opportunity means for the future of our country economically and politically, as well as what it says about our ideals and values. He then tackles the question of what to do about it, offering a number of specific ideas and citing approaches that have had positive results. The best hope is a strong economy that benefits less-educated, low-paid workers.

An insightful book that paints a disturbing picture of the collapse of the working class and the growth of an upper class that seems to be largely unaware of the other’s precarious existence.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6989-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

A dragon awaits, in other words. Cheerless and even nightmarish, one of the best books yet about the war in Central Asia.

THE DOGS ARE EATING THEM NOW

OUR WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

Think Afghanistan is bad now? Just wait until American forces leave entirely and the dragon rises again.

The dragon trope is foreign correspondent Smith’s, borrowing from the old cartographer’s notation that dragons lurk in unmapped corners of the Earth. “The thing about modern civilization,” says one battle-hardened GI, “is that we can’t stand those empty spots. The dragons fly out and bite you in the ass.” So they do, and by Smith’s account, the dragons are multiplying. Eloquent and sometimes-hallucinatory, reminiscent at turns of Michael Herr’s Dispatches and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Smith’s narrative takes us from bad to worse. In one set piece, a coalition soldier lets loose a rocket with the remark, “There goes a Porsche,” precisely because the rocket costs as much as a sports car. Meanwhile, the enemy makes lethal weapons out of scraps, odd bits of fertilizer, plastic buckets and rusty tools. The result is devastating, and Smith does not shy from decidedly not-for-workplace descriptions: “Charred pieces of human flesh stuck to the armour. A television reporter wrinkled her nose at the sight, and I asked her: ‘Can you believe they were trying to sell me a story about how things have gotten better in Panjwai?’ ” Smith is a master of the battlefield description, but he’s even better at slyly noting the ironies and complexities of the war: for instance, destroying a farmer’s opium crop, while falling under the rubric of the war on drugs, would likely turn the farmer against the United States. Solution? Hire mercenaries to “slip into areas secured by NATO troops and raze the fields, without telling anybody they were sent by the foreigners.” Worse, in the author’s formulation, is now that we’re mired, we’re stuck, no matter how we pretend otherwise: “At best, we are leaving behind an ongoing war. At worst, it’s a looming disaster.”

A dragon awaits, in other words. Cheerless and even nightmarish, one of the best books yet about the war in Central Asia.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1619024793

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

Washington, D.C., regulars may know some of this information, and foreign nations certainly do, but all engaged American...

THE DEVIL'S CHESSBOARD

ALLEN DULLES, THE CIA, AND THE RISE OF AMERICA'S SECRET GOVERNMENT

Former Salon founding editor-in-chief Talbot (Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love, 2012, etc.) shares his extensive knowledge and intense investigations of American politics with a frightening biography of power, manipulation, and outright treason.

The story of Allen Dulles (1893-1969), his brother John Foster, and the power elite that ran Washington, D.C., following World War II is the stuff of spy fiction, but it reaches even further beyond to an underworld of unaccountable authority. Dulles’ career began in the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, where he built a powerful client list. During wartime in Switzerland, he worked to protect his clients’ corporations and build his own organization. In direct opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s policy, he sought a separate peace with the Germans to use them to fight communism. Talbot delivers a variety of thrilling stories about Dulles that boggle the mind, from skimming funds from the Marshall Plan to using Richard Nixon as his mouthpiece in Congress. It is really about the power elite, the corporate executives, government leaders, and top military officials who controlled the world. They protected corporate interests in Iran, Guatemala, and elsewhere, and they fomented revolutions, experimented in mind control, and assassinated those who got in their way. With John Foster as secretary of state, this “fraternity of the successful” enforced a Pax Americana by terror and intimidation, always invoking national security and often blatantly disobeying policy guidelines. The author asserts that the Bay of Pigs was an intentional failure, meant to force John F. Kennedy to invade Cuba and retrieve corporate properties. Even out of office, Dulles’ conspiracies continued. Talbot also delves into CIA involvement in Kennedy’s assassination. Ultimately, the blatant manipulative activities of the Dulles brothers will shock most readers.

Washington, D.C., regulars may know some of this information, and foreign nations certainly do, but all engaged American citizens should read this book and have their eyes opened.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-227616-2

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

A powerful, timely story told with method and dignity.

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

THE MAKING OF ASIAN AMERICA

A HISTORY

A sweeping study of the fastest growing group in the United States that underscores the shameful racist regard white Americans have long held for Asian immigrants.

A historian of immigration whose ancestors hailed from China, Lee (History/Univ. of Minnesota) delineates the specific history of Asians in America—Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hmong, and others—while also lending a general sense of what immigrants have endured: discrimination in work, wages, education, and housing, and even incarceration during World War II. The author tells a thorough tale, beginning with the first “chinos” (Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese) who migrated from 16th-century Manila (trade between Spain and Asia first ran through the Philippines) to Acapulco and even proto-California. Colonial trade routes brought goods like tea, porcelain, and fabrics from Asia, and immigrants followed to Mexico and Peru and North America, especially as the need for labor grew. Readers might be surprised to learn of the huge influx of South Asian “coolies,” or indentured laborers bound under contract, to the Americas and the West Indies during the 19th century, feeding another form of slavery and fueling discrimination. Due to adverse economic conditions in many Chinese provinces in the mid-1800s, the Chinese migrated in huge numbers; one great attraction was “Gold Mountain” (California), which drew Lee’s great-great-great-grandfather. Official U.S. immigration discrimination kicked in by 1875, codified in certain exclusion and immigration acts (1882, 1924) and restricting citizenship. Of course, the irony was that despite the enormous contributions of Asians in building American industry and wealth, they were never considered fully American. But Asians in exile were able to work for revolution and change in their own countries (China, India) while pushing all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge discrimination in housing, work, and other venues. For readers interested in even further study, the author provides a highly useful bibliographic essay.

A powerful, timely story told with method and dignity.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3940-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

Sprawling, engrossing, and highly relevant to the ongoing controversies about policing post-Ferguson, which Domanick...

BLUE

THE LAPD AND THE BATTLE TO REDEEM AMERICAN POLICING

An incisive examination of American policing, using a tumultuous two decades in Los Angeles as a lens.

Journalist Domanick (Cruel Justice: Three Strikes and the Politics of Crime in America's Golden State, 2004, etc.), associate director of John Jay College’s Center on Media, Crime, and Justice, argues that the philosophical conflicts within the LAPD convey the “larger saga of big-city American policing.” He weaves this complex narrative around several key figures—officers, administrators, civilian commissioners, and gangbangers-turned-interventionists—and events, starting in 1992 with the ugly flash point of the Rodney King beating and the subsequent riots. The LAPD was unprepared for a conflagration stoked by its reliance on paramilitary tactics in minority neighborhoods. Domanick considers this the key feature of the LAPD since the reign of martinet chief William Parker in the 1950s and ’60s. Parker’s protégé, Daryl Gates, was unapologetically provocative, promoting hyperaggressive policing during the violent crack era of the 1980s. In the post-King political wreckage, Gates was succeeded by two African-American chiefs, outsider Willie Williams and admired local cop Bernard Parks. Both failed to address the LAPD’s baroque leadership structure and aggressive tactics, and they were plagued by the flawed investigation of O.J. Simpson and the “Ramparts CRASH” corruption scandal. The city finally turned to William Bratton, the driven, ambitious proponent of statistically oriented policing who claimed credit for New York’s historic crime reductions. Bratton saw his LA appointment as an opportunity to “remake [police] culture into a community-policing model without undoing his broken-windows strategy.” Domanick paints on a broad canvas, often pausing to look at other cities’ parallel struggles with policing and crime. He adeptly balances a complex discussion, addressing both the necessity of proactive law enforcement in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence and the fundamental injustice of the “Drug War” model as applied to low-income communities. While the focus on multiple biographies can become tedious, this is a well-executed, large-scale urban narrative.

Sprawling, engrossing, and highly relevant to the ongoing controversies about policing post-Ferguson, which Domanick addresses in an epilogue.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4107-3

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

A tremendously useful, insightful study of the frightening spread of a culture of death.

EMPIRE OF FEAR

INSIDE THE ISLAMIC STATE

An exploration of the spreading terror of the self-proclaimed new caliphate.

Senior BBC reporter Hosken, who has covered 9/11 and the Arab Spring, among other major world events, has been tracking the rise of the Islamic State since 2003, as it took root with the United States–led invasion of Iraq. There are enormously complicated yet logical steps to the terrorist organization’s horrifying rise, and the author does a thorough job of building the chronology. The first Jordanian leader of IS, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was radicalized in prison by Islamist extremism and the idea of eradicating apostasy, in the form of anyone not subscribing to the narrow Salafist ideology—e.g., Shia Muslims, Yazidis, Christians, and many others. From 1996 to 2003, followers adhered to a specific blueprint and embraced a bloodthirsty campaign of purging Shia enemies (the majority in Iraq) and employing widespread terrorism, culminating in the declaration of a caliphate by 2014—embodied with the capture of Mosul. The U.S.’s disastrous decision to dissolve the Ba’ath Party led many embittered generals to join the insurgency. After al-Zarqawi’s death in June 2006, the next leader and future caliph of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, followed the terror strategy laid out in a manual called The Management of Savagery: suicide bombs, massacres, beheadings, abduction and rapes of women and children, terrorizing the population of Anbar province. Al-Baghdadi made the crucial decision to enter the Syrian civil war in 2011, which gave the group deadly new impetus leading to the declaration of a caliphate. Hosken does an excellent job of sorting out the American reaction, the failure of the Iraqi leadership in the form of Nouri al-Maliki and others, and how IS has becomes the richest terrorist group in the world.

A tremendously useful, insightful study of the frightening spread of a culture of death.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78074-806-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

An informative and inspirational guide to the myriad ways of making a home.

HOW WE LIVE NOW

REDEFINING HOME AND FAMILY IN THE 21ST CENTURY

An eye-opening survey of the different living arrangements Americans have come to embrace.

As a proponent of living alone, DePaulo admits, “I don’t want to live with any other humans of any age.” Yet she finds high levels of satisfaction among those whose living arrangements deviate from what was once considered the social norm. That norm might be an aberration at a time when people are marrying later (if at all), living longer and healthier, and trying to strike a balance between privacy and community. “Americans are living the new happily ever after,” she writes. “They are living with people they care about, sharing meals, indulging in the comforting ritual of how-was-your-day exchanges and spending holidays together. The ‘new’ part is that the people with whom they are sharing homes and lives may not be just spouses and romantic partners.” They may be single parents who have come together through “CoAbode, an online matching service for single mothers looking to share a home with other single mothers.” They may span multiple generations of the same family. They may be older people, widowed or divorced, who seek community and perhaps even romance but without marriage. They may be communities that share common areas—dining, lawns—but have individual living spaces and finances that distinguish them from the communes of old. The author admits that her book is “biased” toward those who have found happiness and that those who seek out such arrangements are a self-selected lot to begin with. But if those who have found tension or trouble in sharing space with former strangers are given short shrift, the book nevertheless builds a compelling case that “in twenty-first century America, individuals are freer than they have ever been before. They are no longer tied to predetermined courses in which marrying, having kids, and staying married are obligatory.”

An informative and inspirational guide to the myriad ways of making a home.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58270-479-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Beyond Words/Atria

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

A sobering and informative look at the realities of criminality in the inner city.

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GHETTOSIDE

A TRUE STORY OF MURDER IN AMERICA

Los Angeles Times reporter and editor Leovy looks at the thinly veiled racist origins of violence in South Central LA.

In her debut, the author journeys where most fear to tread: the perennially mean streets of South Central LA, where she uses the senseless murder of a policeman’s progeny as a jumping-off point to investigate broader issues of why, even as violent crime as a whole in America continues to drop, that urban area sees so many of its people dying by tragically violent means. Leovy’s big-picture thesis is that whether you’re talking about the “rough justice” of vigilante revenge killings in Ghana, Northern Ireland or South Central LA, the one underlying cause is the same: a vacuum left by a legal system that fails to serve everyone equally. Leovy posits that the gang violence in LA is the result of the local police simply not doing their jobs. On a microcosmic level, the author follows the lives of two LAPD officers, John Skaggs and Wally Tennelle, the former investigating the murder of the latter’s son. Tennelle’s decision to buck the trend among LA cops and live within the city limits furthered his career as a police officer but had deadly consequences for his son. Intertwined with Leovy’s swiftly paced true-crime narrative involving Skaggs’ methodical tracking down of Tennelle’s killer is some probing sociological research into how blacks in LA got the short end of the socioeconomic straw: Hispanics may have been treated unfairly in the jobs they worked, but as Leovy points out, African-Americans were, even as far back as the 1920s, often excluded from even the lowest-skilled jobs in the city. Unfortunately, however deftly the author interweaves the more personal angle of officers Skaggs and Tennelle with broader sociological “root cause” investigations, there is little to suggest that real change will arrive soon in South Central LA.

A sobering and informative look at the realities of criminality in the inner city.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0385529983

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

Not just a compelling history, but a cry for help in the recurring struggle to gain what is supposed to be an inalienable...

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GIVE US THE BALLOT

THE MODERN STRUGGLE FOR VOTING RIGHTS IN AMERICA

An incisive look at the many issues surrounding the right to vote.

Berman (Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, 2010), a contributing writer for the Nation and investigative journalism fellow at the Nation Institute, tracks the struggle to gain the vote, from Reconstruction, the backlash of Jim Crow, and the 1960s, when it all seemed to come together. The 1965 march across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge was a tipping point. Before then, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson felt voting changes would endanger the president’s Great Society project. The horror and brutality of that day changed everything, and the most liberal Congress since the New Deal passed the Voting Rights Act. After Johnson signed the act in August 1965, he said that the South was lost to the Democratic Party for the next generation. He was absolutely right. What he didn’t foresee was the opening of the floodgates to deny and disenfranchise voters across the South and well beyond. The author recounts how the act enabled the Department of Justice to gain ground through three generations of cases. They outlawed literacy tests and poll taxes, dismantled gerrymandered districts and at large elections, and fought for a fair share of political power. This emotional book runs the gamut from great joy at the quest accomplished in 1965 to pride at the success of the judicial system in upholding voting rights to disbelief as the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush courts shattered 50 years of work. Voter ID laws, shortened early polling days, and voter roll purges are just the latest tactics in a fight that continues.

Not just a compelling history, but a cry for help in the recurring struggle to gain what is supposed to be an inalienable right.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-15827-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

Deeply engrossing, well-written, and packed with revealing stories.

KATRINA

AFTER THE FLOOD

Former New York Times reporter Rivlin (Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.—How the Working Poor Became Big Business, 2010, etc.) delivers a magnificently reported account of life in a broken, waterlogged city.

During Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the levees of New Orleans broke, causing $135 billion in damages, killing over 1,800 people, and leaving 80 percent of the city flooded. Most devastated were the lowest-lying (poor, black) neighborhoods. News coverage and a plethora of books have burnished the images of those days in the American psyche—the rubble and wrecked cars, the FEMA trailers, the 25,000 people stranded in the fetid Superdome, and the seeming inability of officials to act decisively to rescue black residents who could not afford to flee. Rivlin arrived early on to cover the tragedy and stayed with the story for 10 years, conducting hundreds of interviews, exploring every imaginable aspect of the “botched rescue” and recovery, and delving sympathetically into the lives of countless people, black and white, who stayed, left, or returned. Throughout the book, the author provides intimate portraits—e.g., black banker Alden McDonald, who worked tirelessly on behalf of black residents; white suburbanite Joe Canizaro, head of the official recovery commission; former Black Panther Malik Rahim, who led rebuilding efforts in the 9th Ward. This is a nightmarish story of variously powerless, incompetent, and politicking figures, from the George Bush administration, hampered by “incompetence” and “ideology,” to the “ineffectual” Mayor Ray Nagin, now imprisoned for public corruption, and, most disturbing, white blue bloods who looked forward to a city without blacks. Rivlin’s exquisitely detailed narrative captures the anger, fatigue, and ambiguity of life during the recovery, the centrality of race at every step along the way, and the generosity of many from elsewhere in the country. Although federal monies eventually helped give the city a “massive makeover,” widespread poverty remains, with only a third of houses now occupied in the lower 9th.

Deeply engrossing, well-written, and packed with revealing stories.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9222-8

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Required reading for policymakers and students, and general readers will finish the book realizing they actually understand...

THE AGE OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

A leading economist offers a brilliant analysis of the worldwide need to balance economic development and environmental sustainability.

Sustainable development is “the greatest, most complicated challenge humanity has ever faced,” writes Sachs (Sustainable Development, Health Policy and Management/Columbia Univ.; To Move the World: JFK's Quest for Peace, 2013, etc.). In an important, comprehensive and remarkably accessible book—a standout in a sea of jargon-laden titles that fail to explain and vivify this enormously complex topic—the author writes lucidly about a staggering array of intertwined challenges, including poverty, overpopulation, species extinction, overextraction from oceans, urbanization, social mobility and climate change. Sachs stresses that sustainable development is “inherently an exercise in problem solving,” and he calls for a holistic approach and new ideas to produce “prosperous, inclusive, sustainable, and well-governed societies.” He explains the history of world economic development, the factors that help make some nations more impoverished than others (such as the landlocked nature of much of Africa), the science of climate change, how technical advances have fostered the depletion of ocean fisheries, the “unfinished business” of social mobility, and the pressing need for sustainable technologies and higher farm yields (especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia). In each instance, the author offers telling details and anecdotes accompanied by useful charts, maps and photographs that drive home his points. Two photos of Shenzhen, China, taken three decades apart, convey the astonishing growth of that major southern city. Examining each aspect of his topic in detail within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals formulated at the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, Sachs argues that solutions are feasible and affordable, despite strong opposition by vested interests and the inaction of governments.

Required reading for policymakers and students, and general readers will finish the book realizing they actually understand what sustainable development is all about.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-231-17314-8

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

Shane's reporting is superb, and the way he frames the public policy debate makes the narrative compelling from start to...

OBJECTIVE TROY

A TERRORIST, A PRESIDENT, AND THE RISE OF THE DRONE

New York Times national security reporter Shane compares and contrasts the trajectories of President Barack Obama and Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen residing in Yemen whom Obama ordered to be killed by a drone.

Al-Awlaki grew up in an educated Yemeni family. When his parents obtained their educations in the United States, he was born a citizen. He grew up in Yemen and returned to the United States at age 19. Obama was also born in the United States to a foreign father who was a secular-minded Muslim. Then Obama resided in Indonesia, returning to the United States at age 10. Due to 9/11, the superficial similarities between Obama and al-Awlaki became more meaningful. One would react by becoming an elected politician, the other by becoming a Muslim holy man who initially spoke for the moderate wing of his religion. But by the time Obama reached the presidency in 2008, al-Awlaki had unexpectedly become a militant calling for the death of the “infidel” Americans. Obama began to explore whether he had the authority as commander in chief of the military to send a drone into Yemen to kill al-Awlaki, even though the cleric had not been charged with a crime. By the time the book ends, al-Awlaki is dead, as is his teenage son. Shane became obsessed about learning how Obama, a former constitutional law professor, justified the drone strikes, especially given his opposition to the conduct of the war on terror created by his predecessor, George W. Bush. The author was equally intrigued by the change in philosophy adopted by al-Awlaki, which required a return to Yemen, as something of a fugitive, despite a privileged life in the U.S. In addition to following his two principals, the author examines the drone technology that gave Obama the remarkable ability to target someone thousands of miles away.

Shane's reporting is superb, and the way he frames the public policy debate makes the narrative compelling from start to finish.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8041-4029-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Warrick stops short of offering policy solutions, but he provides a valuable, readable introduction to a pressing...

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BLACK FLAGS

THE RISE OF ISIS

Crisply written, chilling account of the personalities behind the emergence of the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Warrick (The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole Who Infiltrated the CIA, 2011) confidently weaves a cohesive narrative from an array of players—American officials, CIA officers, Jordanian royalty and security operatives, religious figures, and terrorists—producing an important geopolitical overview with the grisly punch of true-crime nonfiction. Initially, he focuses on Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a sullen thug who discovered Muslim fundamentalism while incarcerated in the 1990s and turned it into a framework for savagery against other Muslims. Against the backdrop of the bungled American invasion of Iraq, al-Zarqawi stoked a Sunni-Shiite civil war and normalized horrific tableaux like the suicide bombing of the United Nations mission. Soon, “Islamist media were awash in Zarqawi-inspired gore,” effectively increasing his support, until he overstepped with a hotel bombing in Jordan. Although the U.S. military killed al-Zarqawi in 2006, Syria’s civil war provided a second front for the remnants of al-Zarqawi's jihadis. His successor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who transformed the group into ISIS, "was not a violent troublemaker like Zarqawi or an adventurer like Osama bin Laden." Indeed, Warrick notes, “had it not been for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Islamic State’s greatest butcher would likely have lived out his years as a college professor.” Yet, ISIS achieved rapid military success across Iraq and Syria beginning in 2013 and revived their emphasis on terrorist atrocity, with Baghdadi’s goals clear, as a U.S. official noted: “He was talking about physically restoring the Islamic caliphate in a way that nobody else did.” The author focuses on dramatic flashpoints and the roles of key players, creating an exciting tale with a rueful tone, emphasizing how the Iraq invasion’s folly birthed ISIS and created many missed opportunities to stop al-Zarqawi quickly.

Warrick stops short of offering policy solutions, but he provides a valuable, readable introduction to a pressing international security threat.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53821-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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