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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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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