Bringing an unusually informed and cool head to the tumult accompanying unfolding events, Amar performs a valuable service...




From a constitutional law expert, 20 years’ worth of essays on controversial issues that have dominated the headlines.

In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities, Amar (Law and Political Science/Yale Univ.; The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic, 2015, etc.) has filled yet another niche “within the contemporary American constitutional ecosystem.” Acting as a “constitutional journalist,” writing for newspapers, magazines, and journals, he has regularly seized timely new hooks “on which to hang a broader argument that extends far beyond the news event putatively prompting the piece.” In this collection, the author arranges the essays under broad headings—the three branches of government, the culture wars, the dramas attending Bill Clinton’s impeachment, George W. Bush’s first election, and Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act—and prefaces individual topics with updated commentary reflecting the author’s estimation of how his on-deadline reporting has held up or his thinking has evolved. Subjects stretch from the hot-off-the-press, stalled nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court all the way back to Clinton v. Jones (1997) and the hazards of permitting a private lawsuit against a sitting president. Believing there are right and wrong answers to constitutional questions and convinced that the correct judgment usually emerges over time, Amar rigorously analyzes each issue in accessible prose, with humor and humility. He forthrightly confesses his bias as “a card-carrying Democratic scholar,” but instances abound here—on gun rights, on the exclusionary rule, on campaign finance—where the conclusions he’s reached appear to cut against his political preference. This insistence on playing fair—his willingness to, for example, praise Antonin Scalia or criticize Stephen Breyer (for whom he clerked) when the occasion demands—is one of this book’s many charms, lending credence to the sharp scrutiny the professor applies to every topic and to the predictions he makes about the course of constitutional law.

Bringing an unusually informed and cool head to the tumult accompanying unfolding events, Amar performs a valuable service for his fellow citizens.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-09633-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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