A dizzying, tragicomic crash course in contemporary political incapacities.



A disheartening portrait of the alternately incompetent and corrupt Cabinet of the current administration.

In his scathing critique, Yahoo News national affairs correspondent Nazaryan (co-author: Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works, 2019, etc.) shows clearly how Donald Trump, with his “intentionally nonlinear presidency,” established a Cabinet consisting of crucially inexperienced individuals in public service, each remarkably unqualified to assume key pivotal decision-making roles in politics. In an assembly both “overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly old,” each member was lauded for their elite status and financial worth and, to the author, “wealth that was tacky and vulgar, wealth desperate for recognition, wealth that could only have been an insult to the average citizens whose tribune Trump vowed to be in Washington.” Nazaryan provides glaring examples of the rampant conflicts of interests and ethical red flags by meticulously detailing the head-scratching nomination hearings of Betsy DeVos, a fundamentalist conservative Christian with a skewed view of an education official’s priorities; Steve Mnuchin, secretary of the Treasury, who filed false financial asset disclosures upon his appointment; Rick Perry, the Department of Energy secretary who was blatantly unsure of what his position actually governed; wealthy investor-cum–commerce secretary Wilbur Ross; and Department of Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, who lacked any governmental or federal agency experience whatsoever. While this type of bureaucratic runaway train is not news to political watchdogs, the author manages to put a fresh spin on a dire situation with snarky humor and wince-inducing facts, though his intense contempt at times borders on unnecessary mudslinging. While he also identifies countless other impurities infiltrating the political stream—Priebus, Pruitt, Spicer, Bannon et al.—thankfully, he balances these out by documenting how imprudence and circumstance caught up to the pack and an incremental exodus ensued. Many others surprisingly remain in power, and Nazaryan is pleased to call out the remaining political “backbenchers of public and private life” whose tenures continue to crumble beneath the weight of unmet expectations.

A dizzying, tragicomic crash course in contemporary political incapacities.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-42143-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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