Entertaining, sometimes-insightful political philippics, although they lack timeliness and depth.

PENNY RANTS

NOTES OF A SANCTIMONIOUS PURIST, 2005-2012

An assemblage of spirited opinions from a political blog.

Mento offers a collection of posts that he previously published from 2005 to 2012 on Thieves in the Temple, a “political action weblog.” They cover a broad range of topics, including the Iraq War, the failings of the media, the 2008 housing crisis, and environmental protection. Each entry is just a single paragraph in length and focuses only on one issue, resulting in a litany of quick-witted reactions rather than lengthy disquisitions. The author unabashedly identifies himself as a purveyor of liberal values—both on practical and moral grounds—but he directs his criticisms at both sides of the aisle, as he’s more committed to a thoughtful liberalism than to any particular party. For example, there’s no shortage of scathing judgments of Barack Obama’s policies, both as a senator and as president. And although Mento generally avoids grand philosophical issues, he permeates the book with discussion of what the essences of liberalism and conservatism really are. Some of the most intellectually engaging discussions revolve around the definition of an authentically conservative creed; for example, he argues that a true conservative would embrace economic protectionism rather than internationally free markets: “And wouldn’t a real conservative think of a ‘global economy’ as a near-synonym for ‘foreign entanglements?’ ” Mento writes with acerbic flair and has a talent for distilling complex issues into quickly digestible parts. Also, he combines the comic with the serious seamlessly—just about every post is studded with sarcastic irony. However, there are limitations that are inherent to the book’s format: one-paragraph discussions are rarely deep and have a tendency to devolve into platitudes. Further, because Mento’s discussions usually targeted news of the moment, much of the book feels dated. The signature virtue of a blog is its responsiveness to current events, so it seems odd to immortalize such ephemeral reflections in print.

Entertaining, sometimes-insightful political philippics, although they lack timeliness and depth.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Blunt Instruments

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2017

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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