A well-researched historical discussion with clear current relevance.




Exacting study of the historical roots of U.S. deportation policies.

As Goodman observes, though “the deportation machine has been running on all cylinders in recent years…it did not just come into being during the presidency of Donald J. Trump,” whose policies are discussed in a chilling epilogue. The author’s lean narrative contains six long chapters, examining the many political events that have caused fluctuating severity and approaches. Goodman illuminates surprising historical aspects—e.g., how enforcement began as racist local efforts aimed at Chinese and Mexican laborers. With increased central bureaucracy in the 1920s, “authorities placed an even greater emphasis on controlling the nation’s borders.” During the Depression, they were “increasingly aware of the power of scare tactics to exert control over noncitizens, and especially Mexicans.” Later, the Bracero agricultural workers who’d been welcomed during the war were scapegoated, culminating in the aggressive “Operation Wetback.” In the mid-20th century, writes the author, “voluntary departure and anti-immigrant fear campaigns became the dominant mechanisms of expulsion.” With so-called voluntary departures, “there were no bureaucratic hoops to jump through.” A lack of transparency about official practices has always been a problem. Goodman notes that “immigration historians know little about how authorities have forcibly removed people, and even less about the US government contracting private companies to effect expulsions.” He explores how return migration provided profitability to steamship companies followed by private aviation and even Greyhound buses; even in the 1950s, conditions aboard ships were so vile that detainees mutinied. The author also argues that manufactured border crises, abetted by sensationalist media, caused expulsion rates to begin climbing during the 1960s, and he notes that “INS also ramped up neighborhood and workplace raids,” a harbinger of today’s militarized borders and mass-incarceration approach. Goodman’s writing can be dry, but he confidently handles arcane historical details and a volatile subject.

A well-researched historical discussion with clear current relevance. (b/w tables, graphs, photos)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-691-18215-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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