A good book for anyone who has wondered how scandalous past behavior makes its way into campaign headlines.




A bright romp through the world of opposition political research.

Since 1993, former journalists Huffman (Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History, 2009, etc.) and Rejebian have worked in “oppo,” gathering damaging information on political candidates and their opponents in local, state and national elections. “Everything we cite in our reports must be thorough, honest, accurate and, as we can’t stress enough, documented,” they write. How clients use the information is a different story. In this revealing, anecdote-filled account, the authors describe a year of investigations that took them from front porches to courthouses to presidential libraries in search of “political intel.” We see them reviewing municipal records under guard, pitching prospective clients, fending off difficult people, fielding suspicious phone calls and using ingenious methods to deal with officious government clerks. No one knows quite what to make of them (“Who did you say you’re with?”), and they vacillate privately over their own identity, seeing themselves on one hand as journalists without bylines and on the other as “part investigator, part critic, part paid informant.” In fact, they are partners in the political research firm Huffman & Rejebian, part of a multimillion-dollar industry that is “a crucial underpinning” of American politics. Ironically, the authors are not deeply political people; they express disgust at the nastiness of American politics and amazement at the undocumented claims some candidates will make to get elected. They refuse to rely solely on online sources (often inaccurate or incomplete) and instead beat a path by foot to the doors of ex-wives and others in the know. They say many candidates don’t know what’s in their own record and don’t want to. One prospective candidate, confronted with an incident report about the beating he gave his girlfriend at an airport, dropped his plans to run.

 A good book for anyone who has wondered how scandalous past behavior makes its way into campaign headlines.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-201577-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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