Timely, controversial, and bound to stir already heated discussion.

NOBODY

CASUALTIES OF AMERICA'S WAR ON THE VULNERABLE, FROM FERGUSON TO FLINT AND BEYOND

An impassioned analysis of headline-making cases of police shootings and other acts of “state violence” against blacks and other minorities.

Journalist and BET News host Hill (African-American Studies/Morehouse Coll.; co-author: Schooling Hip-hop: Expanding Hip-hop Based Education Across the Curriculum, 2013, etc.) argues that the deaths of Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and others are instances of “an increasingly intense war on the vulnerable.” The victims—“Nobodies”—are “Black, poor, trans, queer, or otherwise marked as disposable within the public imagination.” America’s obsession with “free market logic and culture” has devalued the public good and inspired policies that wreak havoc on the vulnerable. For example, the “broken windows” concept of policing, which encourages enforcement of laws against minor crimes, sometimes overcriminalizes harmless rule-breaking. During one such “quality of life” arrest for selling loose cigarettes, Eric Garner, an asthmatic New Yorker, who had been selling “loosies” on the street for years without police interference, was placed in a choke hold and died while repeatedly crying, “I can’t breathe.” In recounting the stories of such incidents, Hill offers valuable perspective and much to ponder: Bland, a young Texas driver who apparently failed to signal and had been impertinent to police before her arrest, was found hanging dead in her jail cell. Deemed a suicide, she had much to live for. Brown, fleeing from a convenience store robbery, was shot dead in the back in Ferguson, Missouri. He was hardly innocent, notes Hill, but “one should not need to be innocent to avoid execution.” By the same token, the behavior of Walter Scott, a South Carolina motorist who resisted arrest and fled after being stopped for a broken taillight, did not warrant death by “excessive force.” Hill’s incisive thumbnail histories of the decaying communities of Ferguson and Flint, Michigan, where government actions led to a water crisis, lend credence to his sometimes-strident insistence that societal forces are stacked against our weakest members.

Timely, controversial, and bound to stir already heated discussion.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2494-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

A refreshingly unusual approach by an author admirably transparent about why she wrote the book and why she chose to avoid...

THE GUNNING OF AMERICA

BUSINESS AND THE MAKING OF AMERICAN GUN CULTURE

An examination of the controversial realm of American gun culture through the perspective of gun manufacturers, with an emphasis on the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

Historian Haag (Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples, 2011, etc.) deliberately eschews detailed discussions about the Second Amendment, the rights of gun owners, the advocates of gun control, and other cornerstones of our current heated political debate. Instead, in each chapter, the author emphasizes that the United States became awash with handguns and rifles and other permutations of weaponry in large part because manufacturers saw potential markets for their products and then sold to those markets aggressively and effectively. Haag explores numerous manufacturers and their personnel, building her narrative mostly around 19th-century “rifle king” Oliver Winchester and his “less visible, more historically numinous daughter-in-law,” Sarah Winchester. Oliver represents the bottom line–oriented businessman who thought little about the moral implications of selling a product meant to kill, while Sarah represents the second-generation tycoon haunted by those same moral implications. As Haag mixes a straight-ahead business saga with a soap-operatic tale of misfortune in spite of wealth, the opposing strands are not always well-integrated within the overall text. However, those threads are usually interesting, and the research is extensive. In an epilogue, Haag briefly addresses current gun politics, suggesting that imposing corporate accountability on gun manufacturers seems more productive than endlessly debating the rights of gun owners and what gun control partisans have a right to impose on those individual owners. It is important to recognize, she writes, “that gun violence and mass shootings are not really technocratic problems, to be most effectively solved through the correspondingly technocratic remedies of legislative campaigns that often fail, and that, in any event, tackle small facets of the problem.”

A refreshingly unusual approach by an author admirably transparent about why she wrote the book and why she chose to avoid more traditional approaches.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-04895-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

This stunning, remarkable book—a scholar’s 21st-century How the Other Half Lives—demands a wide audience.

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EVICTED

POVERTY AND PROFIT IN THE AMERICAN CITY

A groundbreaking work on the central role of housing in the lives of the poor.

Based on two years (2008-2009) spent embedded with eight poor families in Milwaukee, Desmond (Sociology and Social Science/Harvard Univ.; On the Fireline: Living and Dying with Wildland Firefighters, 2007, etc.) delivers a gripping, novelistic narrative exploring the ceaseless cycle of “making rent, delaying eviction, or finding another place to live when homeless” as experienced by adults and children, both black and white, surviving in trailer parks and ghettos. “We have failed to fully appreciate how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty,” writes the author. Once rare, eviction is now commonplace for millions of Americans each year, most often as a result of insufficient government support, rising rent and utility costs, and stagnant incomes. Having gained unusual access to these families, Desmond immerses us in the lives of Sherrena Tarver, a teacher-turned-landlord who rents inner-city units to the black poor; Tobin Charney, who nets more than $400,000 yearly on 131 poorly maintained trailers rented (at $550 a month) to poor whites; and disparate tenants who struggle to make rent for cramped, decrepit units plagued by poor plumbing, lack of heat, and code violations. The latter include Crystal, 18, raised in more than two dozen foster homes, who moved in with three garbage bags of clothes, and Arleen, a single mother, who contacted more than 80 apartment owners in her search for a new home. Their frantic experiences—they spend an astonishing 70 to 80 percent of their incomes on rent—make for harrowing reading, interspersed with moving moments revealing their resilience and humanity. “All this suffering is shameful and unnecessary,” writes Desmond, who bolsters his stories with important new survey findings. He argues that universal housing vouchers and publicly funded legal services for the evicted (90 percent lack attorneys in housing courts) would help alleviate this growing, often overlooked housing crisis.

This stunning, remarkable book—a scholar’s 21st-century How the Other Half Lives—demands a wide audience.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-44743-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

Required reading for a generation that’s “going to be asked to dance in a hurricane.”

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THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE

AN OPTIMIST'S GUIDE TO THRIVING IN THE AGE OF ACCELERATIONS

The celebrated New York Times columnist diagnoses this unprecedented historical moment and suggests strategies for “resilience and propulsion” that will help us adapt.

“Are things just getting too damned fast?” Friedman (Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America, 2008, etc.) cites 2007 as the year we reached a technological inflection point. Combined with increasingly fast-paced globalization (financial goods and services, information, ideas, innovation) and the subsequent speedy shocks to our planet’s natural system (climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, geochemical flows), we’ve entered an “age of accelerations” that promises to transform “almost every aspect of modern life.” The three-time Pulitzer winner puts his familiar methodology—extensive travel, thorough reporting, interviews with the high-placed movers and shakers, conversations with the lowly moved and shaken—to especially good use here, beginning with a wonderfully Friedman-esque encounter with a parking attendant during which he explains the philosophy and technique underlying his columns and books. The author closes with a return to his Minnesota hometown to reconnect with and explore some effective habits of democratic citizenship. In between, he discusses topics as varied as how garbage cans got smart, how the exponential growth in computational power has resulted in a “supernova” of creative energy, how the computer Watson won Jeopardy, and how, without owning a single property, Airbnb rents out more rooms than all the major hotel chains combined. To meet these and other dizzying accelerations, Friedman advises developing a “dynamic stability,” and he prescribes nothing less than a redesign of our workplaces, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and communities. Drawing lessons from Mother Nature about adaptability, sustainability, and interdependence, he never underestimates the challenges ahead. However, he’s optimistic about our chances as he seeks out these strategies in action, ranging from how AT&T trains its workers to how Tunisia survived the Arab Spring to how chickens can alleviate African poverty.

Required reading for a generation that’s “going to be asked to dance in a hurricane.”

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-27353-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

An unusually timely and deeply affecting view of a social class whose health and economic problems are making headlines in...

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HILLBILLY ELEGY

A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY AND CULTURE IN CRISIS

A Yale Law School graduate’s account of his traumatic hillbilly childhood and the plight of America’s angry white working class.

“Americans call them hillbillies, rednecks, or white trash,” writes Vance, a biotech executive and National Review contributor. “I call them neighbors, friends, and family.” In this understated, engaging debut, the author reflects on his stormy journey from the coal-country Kentucky hollers of Appalachia to the declining Rust Belt to life among the Ivy League–educated elite. Born into a poor Scots-Irish family—with a pill-addicted mother and “revolving door of father figures”—Vance was raised in Ohio by his beloved and newly middle-class grandparents, hardworking believers in the American dream who married in their teens and never shook the trappings (abuse, addiction, and constant fighting and screaming) of their native Kentucky’s hillbilly culture. Mamaw, his grandmother, once set her husband on fire when he came home drunk; Papaw, a violent grouch, tossed a Christmas tree out the back door. In scenes at once harrowing and hilarious, we come to know these loud, rowdy gun-toters as the loyal and loving family whose encouragement helped the author endure “decades of chaos and heartbreak.” In the Marines and at Yale, Vance learned to make responsible adult choices and overcame the learned helplessness that characterizes many in the working class. Pointedly identifying the cynicism and willingness to blame others endemic among that class, he describes the complex malaise—involving sociology, psychology, community, culture, and faith—that has left so many bereft of connections and social support and unable to find high-quality work. The solution, he believes, is not government action but in people asking themselves “what we can do to make things better.” Declaring that he survived with the help of caring family and friends, he writes, “I am one lucky son of a bitch.”

An unusually timely and deeply affecting view of a social class whose health and economic problems are making headlines in this election year.

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-230054-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

A startling debut from a haunted individual who wishes he had left Iraq earlier “with my soul intact.”

CONSEQUENCE

A MEMOIR

A candid and deeply unsettling account of the author’s work as a government contractor in Iraq charged with interrogating detainees in Baghdad, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib.

A devout Presbyterian who grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, attended Gordon College, a Christian school, and earned a degree at Boston University, Pushcart Prize winner Fair enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1995 out of a desire to protect people. After learning Arabic, he was deployed to the Middle East as a linguist but found Army life monotonous. Torn by conflicting impulses (two psychologists deemed him unstable), he served briefly as a police officer but felt destined to become a minister. In 2003, he signed on as an interrogator with CACI International. The author relates his experiences in a low-key, matter-of-fact manner that nonetheless makes palpable his confusion about his life and goals. His disquiet became intolerable during his interrogations of Iraqi prisoners of war, which involved sleep deprivation, stress positions, isolation, and other forms of officially sanctioned torture. “I shouldn’t be here,” he writes. And: “I’ve done things that cannot be undone.” Feeling guilty and ashamed, Fair realized he had sinned: “There is to be no redemption for me in Iraq.” Eschewing abstract discussions of torture and the war, the author offers a beguiling personal narrative that forces readers to share his pain and uncertainty over his circumstances. “I cannot ask God to accompany me into the interrogation booth,” he writes. Told against the background of his failing heart (he required a transplant), his failing hometown (Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt), and his war-strained marriage, his affecting narrative points up the larger failures of interrogators like himself to prevent abusive acts and of the country to end its endorsement of torture. Fair recounts his drinking and horrible nightmares, friendships with fellow contractors, and encounters with Iraqis suspected of anti-coalition activities. Some sections of the book have been redacted.

A startling debut from a haunted individual who wishes he had left Iraq earlier “with my soul intact.”

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-513-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

Dyson succeeds admirably in creating a base line for future interpretations of this historic presidency. His well-written...

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THE BLACK PRESIDENCY

BARACK OBAMA AND THE POLITICS OF RACE IN AMERICA

An early assessment of America’s first black presidency.

In this rich and nuanced book, Dyson (Sociology/Georgetown Univ.; Can You Hear Me Now?: The Inspiration, Wisdom, and Insight of Michael Eric Dyson, 2009, etc.) writes with passion and understanding about Barack Obama’s “sad and disappointing” performance regarding race and black concerns in his two terms in office. While race has defined his tenure, Obama has been “reluctant to take charge” and speak out candidly about the nation’s racial woes, determined to remain “not a black leader but a leader who is black.” Ironically, as the first black president, Obama was expected by many to offer racial insight to the country, but instead, constrained by a “toxic environment” (criticism by birthers, etc.), he has sought to “keep racial peace, often at the expense of black interests.” Too often he “ignores race, denies white responsibility, or criticizes black culture.” Dyson cogently examines Obama’s speeches and statements on race, from his first presidential campaign through recent events—e.g., the Ferguson riots and the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston—noting that the president is careful not to raise the ire of whites and often chastises blacks for their moral failings. At his best, he spoke with “special urgency for black Americans” during the Ferguson crisis and was “at his blackest,” breaking free of constraints, in his “Amazing Grace” Charleston eulogy. Criticized in the past by the radical Cornel West for being an Obama cheerleader, Dyson writes here as a realistic, sometimes-angry supporter of the president. He notes that adoration of Obama has prevented many blacks from holding him accountable. His discussions of key issues and controversies—from Obama’s biracial identity to his relationships with older civil rights leaders—are insightful and absorbing.

Dyson succeeds admirably in creating a base line for future interpretations of this historic presidency. His well-written book thoroughly illuminates the challenges facing a black man elected to govern a society that is far from post-racial.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-38766-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

For parents with young daughters, this book is an ice-cold, important wake-up call.

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AMERICAN GIRLS

SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE SECRET LIVES OF TEENAGERS

What happens to teenage girls when their social lives play out online?

Teenagers have always excelled in befuddling their parents and teachers. While it's an embraced cliché for parents to discuss how different things were when they were that age, it's undeniable that social media has profoundly influenced the experience of teens in ways that older generations find difficult to comprehend. In her second book, journalist Sales (The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World, 2013) provides an excellent primer for understanding how the crucible of adolescence has moved to the digital world. This is not the first such book, but Sales impressively balances the specifics of what is happening online currently with the broader implications for boys and girls—no simple task given the rapidly shifting digital landscape, with the next big thing consistently eclipsing the popular medium of the moment. It would be easy to suggest that, despite the different battlefield, the kids are going through the same things kids have always gone through. But the author makes a compelling case for understanding the differences in both the quantity and quality of today’s online dangers. Having interviewed dozens of teenagers—mostly female—she explores a wide range of topics involving body image, the ways boys treat girls, the ways girls treat girls, and the different forms of competition generated by seemingly endless online arenas. Sales delves into the debate about which ideas constitute feminist empowerment and which are more misogynistic ploys to sell empowerment to girls while simultaneously endangering them. The author discovered that, despite conflicting statistics, there's an extremely high likelihood that most teenagers have watched pornography online—or will soon. Sales takes a broader view than simply being the scold of technology; she spoke with teens who point out the empowerment possibilities of a smartphone: being able to document injustices as they happen and broadcast them to the world.

For parents with young daughters, this book is an ice-cold, important wake-up call.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-35392-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

This first-rate journey into human trafficking, slavery, and familial bonding is an engrossing example of spirited,...

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TRUEVINE

TWO BROTHERS, A KIDNAPPING, AND A MOTHER'S QUEST: A TRUE STORY OF THE JIM CROW SOUTH

A consummate chronicler of the American South spotlights the extraordinary history of two kidnapped African-American brothers enslaved as a circus sideshow act.

Expanding on her 2001 co-authored article series in the Roanoke Times, journalist Macy (Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local—and Helped Save an American Town, 2014) reconstructs the folkloric yet true story of brothers George and Willie Muse, who, in 1899, at ages 9 and 6, toiled on a sweltering tobacco farm in Virginia. As black albinos bearing golden dreadlocks, the boys were considered “genetic anomalies” yet visually ideal when spied by Candy Shelton, a white bounty hunter scouring the area for “freaks” to enslave in circus sideshow acts. As circus entertainment crested in popularity at the turn of the 20th century, Macy writes, much money was to be made by sideshow managers eager to exploit those with physical abnormalities. Despite being falsely told that their mother had died, the Muse brothers went on to become “among the top tier of sideshow headline grabbers,” internationally known to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey audiences as “Eko and Iko, the Ecuadorian Savages.” Macy vividly illustrates circus life during the 1920s, and she movingly depicts how the brothers’ protective, determined mother, Harriett, eventually discovered and rescued them almost a decade and a half later. She sued the circus only to have George and Willie (along with little brother Tom) inexplicably return to the big top under Shelton’s management with decidedly mixed results. The story draws on years of diligent, investigative research and personal investment on the author’s behalf, and it features numerous interviews with immediate family, neighbors, distant relatives, Truevine townsfolk, and associated friends, most notably Nancy Saunders, Willie’s fiercely outspoken primary caregiver. Macy absorbed their own individual (and often conflicting) interpretations of the Muse kidnappings, condensing and skillfully braiding them into a sturdy, passionate, and penetrating narrative.

This first-rate journey into human trafficking, slavery, and familial bonding is an engrossing example of spirited, determined reportage.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-33754-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

Voters ready to pull the trigger one way or another probably won’t be swayed by these revelations, but they are highly...

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THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP

The Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist takes aim at his longtime bête noire, “a modern P.T. Barnum selling tickets to a modern variation of the Feejee Mermaid.”

If you follow the news at all, you’ll know that a number of allegations have recently been raised against GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump—e.g., he played the field outside marriage, refused to pay suppliers and workers for jobs contracted for and completed, lied about his wealth, etc. It’s due in good measure to veteran investigative reporter Johnston (The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind, 2012, etc.) that these charges have seen the light of day. Here, without undue breathlessness and certainly without any coyness, he elaborates on those newsworthy sound bites: Trump’s father was arrested at a KKK rally and later accused of profiteering from tax dollars intended to benefit World War II veterans; Trump avoided military service because of a bone spur in his foot, though which foot he cannot recall; Trump is the least generous philanthropist in his tax bracket—and, of course, we don’t know what bracket that might be given his refusal to release those records—but loudly proclaims that he gives away millions. That none of this is shocking news is because Johnston has already done significant work getting these reports out. What is more useful in this account is his connecting dots and establishing patterns, one of which is that Trump has been planning for more than 30 years to run for the presidency, only now pulling together sufficient support to do so. All of this, of course, tempts legal action; as Johnston notes, “Trump spent two years suing author Tim O’Brien and his publisher for writing that his net worth was probably not in the billions, but rather the hundreds of millions. After a court dismissed the case, Trump made it clear that he merely wanted to harass O’Brien, not necessarily win damages.”

Voters ready to pull the trigger one way or another probably won’t be swayed by these revelations, but they are highly damning indeed.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61219-632-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2016

Important, deeply affecting, and certain to alarm readers who care about the lives of children in a gun-ridden society.

ANOTHER DAY IN THE DEATH OF AMERICA

A CHRONICLE OF TEN SHORT LIVES

The tragic stories of 10 kids killed by gunfire.

In this heart-rending, beautifully crafted book, Guardian editor at large Younge (The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream, 2013, etc.) explores the least-known but most common form of American gun violence involving children and teenagers—not mass school shootings but single, isolated killings, an average of seven daily, in neighborhoods across the country. For 18 months, he investigated the lives of victims between the ages of 9 and 19 who were shot dead on an arbitrarily selected date (Nov. 23, 2013) in varying circumstances: while opening a door, from a passing car, while walking home at 1 a.m. from a McDonald’s, while playing with a gun with a friend. The victims are all poor, working-class males (seven black, two Hispanic, one white) who made poor decisions in “a brutalizing, unforgiving environment.” In Younge’s empathetic telling, they are seen as vulnerable children, some innocent, some not so, all loved by their families. The victims include Tyshon Anderson, 18, a Chicago gang member; Samuel Brightmon, 16, a trusting black kid caught in random gunfire in Dallas; Edwin Rajo, 16, an impulsive Honduran whose girlfriend did not realize there was a bullet in the gun’s chamber; and Tyler Dunn, 11, slain accidentally during rural Michigan’s hunting season. The author discusses such factors as the availability of guns, the challenges of parenting in poor neighborhoods, and the development of adolescent brains. “When it comes to protecting children around guns, parents are flawed and laws are clearly inadequate,” he writes. Younge says fear of gun violence in impoverished areas is such that one mother was happy her 14-year-old son was locked up—“it was safer for him to be incarcerated than to live in the neighborhood.”

Important, deeply affecting, and certain to alarm readers who care about the lives of children in a gun-ridden society.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56858-975-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

Racism is the enduring scar on the American consciousness. In this ambitious, magisterial book, Kendi reveals just how deep...

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STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING

THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF RACIST IDEAS IN AMERICA

An accomplished history of racist thought and practice in the United States from the Puritans to the present.

Anyone who thought that the 2008 election of President Barack Obama marked the emergence of post-racial America has been sorely disillusioned in the subsequent years with seemingly daily reminders of the schism wrought by racism and white supremacy. And yet anyone with even a cursory understanding of this country’s tortured history with race should have known better. In this tour de force, Kendi (African-American History/Univ. of Florida; The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972, 2012) explores the history of racist ideas—and their connection with racist practices—across American history. The author uses five main individuals as “tour guides” to investigate the development of racist ideas throughout the history of the U.S.: the preacher and intellectual Cotton Mather, Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, ardent abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and activist Angela Davis. Kendi also poses three broad schools of thought regarding racial matters throughout American history: segregationist, assimilationist, and anti-racist. Although this trio can be reductionist, it provides a solid framework for understanding the interplay between racist ideas, anti-racism, and the attempts to synthesize them—“assimilationism,” which the author ultimately identifies as simply another form of racism, even when advocated by African-Americans. The subtitle of the book promises a “definitive history,” but despite the book’s more than 500 pages of text, its structure and its viewing of racial ideas through the lens of five individuals means that it is almost necessarily episodic. Although it is a fine history, the narrative may best be read as an extended, sophisticated, and sometimes (justifiably) angry essay.

Racism is the enduring scar on the American consciousness. In this ambitious, magisterial book, Kendi reveals just how deep that scar cuts and why it endures, its barely subcutaneous pain still able to flare.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56858-463-8

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

A well-told chronicle of an ambitious sociological project of significant current importance.

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STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND

ANGER AND MOURNING ON THE AMERICAN RIGHT

An acclaimed liberal sociologist examines “the increasingly hostile split” between America’s two major political parties and “how life feels to people on the right—that is…the emotion that underlies politics.”

Five years before Donald Trump’s presidential bid caught fire, Hochschild (So How's the Family?: And Other Essays, 2013, etc.) decided she wanted to better understand the political and cultural divides in the United States by immersing herself in the anti-government tea party culture so foreign to her own beliefs. Traveling regularly from her Berkeley, California, home to Lake Charles, Louisiana, the author arranged to spend large amounts of time with tea party members and additional self-identified conservatives to figure out how they came to their beliefs. Hochschild felt especially puzzled by the paradox of Louisiana residents residing in dangerously polluted areas yet opposing environmental regulations proposed by both the state and federal governments. Though upset by seemingly racist, sexist, ageist, and economic class hatreds among the men and women she came to know, Hochschild says her determination to observe empathetically rarely flagged. She quickly realized that many of the stated views held of the tea party members were often not fact-based but rather grounded in what life feels like to them—e.g., government feels intrusive, liberals feel condescending, members of racial and ethnic minorities feel lazy and threatening. Trying to imagine herself as the Lake Charles residents viewed themselves, Hochschild vowed to immerse herself thoroughly enough to comprehend what she terms their "deep stories,” and she felt grateful that the tea party members who found her views offensive nonetheless shared their time and thoughts generously. At times, Hochschild flirts with overgeneralizing and stereotyping, but for the most part, she conducts herself as a personable, nonjudgmental researcher.

A well-told chronicle of an ambitious sociological project of significant current importance.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62097-225-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

An inspiring, well-rendered, deeply reported, and often infuriating account.

CHAIN OF TITLE

HOW THREE ORDINARY AMERICANS UNCOVERED WALL STREET'S GREAT FORECLOSURE FRAUD

Salon contributing writer Dayen illuminates how, during the past 10 years, home buyers ended up illegally evicted from their residences as the result of dishonesty, greed, and heartlessness involving mortgage lenders, mortgage servicers, investment bankers, and unscrupulous lawyers.

Because the painstakingly documented scheme consists of highly technical maneuvering related to mortgage documents and land records, the author tells the saga mainly through the individual cases of three home buyers—originally strangers to each other—who educated themselves to fight back: Lisa Epstein, a cancer nurse; Michael Redman, an auto dealership employee; and Lynn Szymoniak, a lawyer who investigates insurance fraud. Dayen chronicles their financially and physically draining campaigns to save their homes from illegal foreclosures and battle on behalf of millions of additional individuals. The author begins with Epstein's case, followed by Redman’s; one-third of the way into the narrative, the two of them meet Szymoniak, and Dayen describes how they pooled their meager resources to raise public consciousness at huge personal sacrifice. The author populates the book with hundreds of other individuals, many of them villains, cowards, or clueless men and women, many of whom had the authority to halt the fraudulent behaviors. In addition, the author occasionally addresses readers directly about the mechanics of the foreclosures, which have affected all 50 states but have been concentrated in Florida, California, Nevada, and Arizona. Wisely, though, Dayen rarely shifts the focus from the instructive, compelling sagas of his principals. Although the efforts of the whistle-blowers have educated countless citizens facing foreclosure—including the massive reach of a 60 Minutes episode—hundreds of thousands of houses remain empty as the former residents scrape by in what they hope are temporary quarters. Dayen relates how prosecutors, judges, and the Department of Justice have caved to powerful mortgage industry donors while illegal foreclosures continue.

An inspiring, well-rendered, deeply reported, and often infuriating account.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62097-158-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

Legal theorists and policymakers will approve the scholarship and close analysis; general readers will appreciate the...

HOW EVERYTHING BECAME WAR AND THE MILITARY BECAME EVERYTHING

TALES FROM THE PENTAGON

A former senior Defense Department adviser explores the military’s expanded role in a time when the lines between war and peace are dangerously blurred.

When it comes to tennis, you can play by the rules, cheat, or remove the net and be playing a game that’s recognizably tennis. In a post–9/11 world of persistent warfare, attention to definitions and rules matters more than ever, Brooks (Law/Georgetown Univ.; Can Might Make Rights?: Building the Rule of Law after Military Interventions, 2006) insists, to avoid awakening to find “that war has swallowed us whole.” She expertly guides readers through this confusing new terrain, asking some basic questions. What constitutes an armed attack? What makes a soldier? What rules govern a drone strike or a special ops raid? What laws apply to National Security Agency wiretapping, indefinite lock-up, or to the violation of another nation’s sovereignty? Throughout her consistently engaging discussion, the author mixes history, politics, and law and draws on her wide-ranging personal experience, inside and outside government, to answer these queries and more. Increasingly, she notes, we call on our esteemed and well-funded military to navigate the eroding boundaries between war and peace, assigning our combat forces tasks—providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, medical and engineering support—that go well beyond their historic role. Now, because modern war is not easily contained, new models of law and of institutions will be required. Brooks offers a few suggested reforms, some more easily accomplished (recalibrating military recruitment) than others (universal service), but whether she’s invoking Wittgenstein’s duck-rabbit image to illustrate the ambiguity of language and the importance of context, dissecting an excruciatingly difficult Hague Tribunal case assigning guilt to an obscure Croatian soldier, or drawing comparisons between a Putin-ordered assassination and an Obama-ordered drone strike, she never fails to stimulate and enlighten.

Legal theorists and policymakers will approve the scholarship and close analysis; general readers will appreciate the sensitive storytelling, the wit, and the uncommon good sense.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7786-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

A first-rate history filled with revealing incidents and informed analysis.

WAGING WAR

THE CLASH BETWEEN PRESIDENTS AND CONGRESS, 1776 TO ISIS

A 1st Circuit Court of Appeals judge chronicles the centurieslong push/pull between the executive and the legislative branches over the conduct of America’s wars.

The proposed Constitution designated the president as the commander in chief but reserved for Congress the authority to declare war and to raise an armed force. Notwithstanding assurances from the likes of Alexander Hamilton, patriots George Mason and Patrick Henry refused to support ratification. Almost 200 years later, historian Arthur Schlesinger, who spent his professional career cheerleading on behalf of an energetic executive, reversed himself, chiding a supine Congress for allowing a succession of presidential exercises of military force so consequential they threatened to remake “all aspects of the modern presidency.” Today, most everyone recognizes the folly, as William Howard Taft once observed, of permitting Congress to try, “as the people of Athens attempted, to carry out campaigns by votes in the market-place.” At the same time, few believe decisions about war belong solely to the president. Drawing on numerous episodes from our history, Barron (co-author: City Bound: How States Stifle Urban Innovation, 2008) fleshes out the back and forth between the branches, the elaborate mix of constitutional and statutory law, politics, and popular opinion that shapes decisions about how the country wages war. In smoothly readable prose, with a sure grasp of the big picture, the author addresses such issues as the treatment of enemy prisoners under Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and George W. Bush; FDR’s adroit advocacy of Lend-Lease, which Attorney General Robert Jackson helped engineer, and Harry Truman’s wartime seizure of the steel mills, which Justice Robert Jackson censured; James Buchanan’s deference to Congress as Civil War approached versus Lincoln’s startling assumption of authority in Fort Sumter’s immediate aftermath; congressional acts, resolutions, and amendments designed to rein in presidents from Andrew Johnson to Nixon; presidents Madison and McKinley, virtually stampeded into battle by an aroused Congress; and presidents Adams and Jefferson, who strenuously avoided ruinous wars under similar pressure.

A first-rate history filled with revealing incidents and informed analysis.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8197-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

An important, disturbing, and gripping history arguing convincingly that, as of 2015, no defense exists against a...

DARK TERRITORY

THE SECRET HISTORY OF CYBER WAR

For centuries, spies could only listen to enemy communications. In this thoughtful, opinionated history, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist warns that in today’s cyberage, “once they hacked a computer, they could prowl the entire network…they could not only read and download scads of information, they could change its contents—disrupt, corrupt, or erase it—and mislead or disorient the officials who relied on it.”

In the 1983 movie, WarGames, a teenager unwittingly hacks into the United States’ defense system, nearly causing World War III. One viewer, an alarmed President Ronald Reagan, commissioned a groundbreaking 1984 directive giving our largest intelligence agency, the National Security Agency, responsibility for securing computer networks. Then the issue basically vanished for a decade. Soviet technology was far behind America’s. In the mid-1990s, teenage hackers broke into American military computers, and a Russian intelligence agency did the same, so the issue was revived. Experts agreed that attack is the best defense, and Slate “War Stories” columnist Kaplan (The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, 2013, etc.) delivers an eye-opening account of the dawn of cyberwar in 1995, when the air war in Serbia was won through crippling of its air defenses by information warfare. A decade later, the Stuxnet computer worm wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, a triumph of digital skulduggery but perhaps an act of war. Though enthusiasts ignore the implications, Kaplan does not. Iranian hackers are inflicting expensive revenge, and a Chinese government agency is devoted to extracting useful information from American computers. Readers may take comfort knowing that we have the capacity to do the same.

An important, disturbing, and gripping history arguing convincingly that, as of 2015, no defense exists against a resourceful cyberattack.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6325-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

A riveting thesis supported by staggering research.

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WHITE TRASH

THE 400-YEAR UNTOLD HISTORY OF CLASS IN AMERICA

A rigorously researched study of the entrenched system of racial classification that dispels many myths about American national identity.

In this impressive work of social history, Isenberg (American History/Louisiana State Univ.; Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr, 2007, etc.) challenges head-on America’s “fable of class denial.” From the first indentured servants brought to Plymouth and Jamestown to the caricatured hillbillies of Duck Dynasty, the existence of “waste” people, or impoverished, ignorant, landless whites, has persistently run against convenient notions of the upstanding American founder—i.e., moral, hardworking “entrepreneurial stewards of the exploitable land.” Dumped on the Colonies, the vagrant, often criminal poor from England and elsewhere were considered expendable and often exploited. As a key to the story, Isenberg looks at the early settlement of North Carolina, which became a “renegade territory, a swampy refuge for the poor and landless,” situated between elite Virginians and slaveholding “upstart” South Carolinians. Contrary to the mythmaking of the exceptional early American in writings by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson, based on theories of “good breeding” and yeomanry, a whole class of common people grew up as a byproduct of the slaveholding states, living on the margins of the plantations: dirt-poor Southerners (literally “clay-eaters”) who were considered lazy and racially degenerate. Moreover, the enormous new swaths of Western land were largely populated by a new class of “squatters” or “crackers,” considered “mangy varmints infesting the land” and represented by the first Westerner elected president, Andrew Jackson. Isenberg examines some surprising sources of these early stereotypes of white trash, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856), in which the author “described poor whites as a degenerate class, prone to crime, immorality, and ignorance.” From the eugenics movement to the rise of the proud redneck, Isenberg portrays a very real and significant history of class privilege in the United States.

A riveting thesis supported by staggering research. 

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-78597-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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