THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD

HOW COMMUNITIES OVERCOME PREJUDICE AND MEET THE CHALLENGE OF AMERICAN IMMIGRATION

Solid advice for an anxious and angry polity on how to talk about a growing cultural challenge.

An immigration activist confronts the nativist opposition to the nation’s changing demography and suggests another way to bridge the yawning cultural divide.

Noorani, executive director of the advocacy organization National Immigration Forum, explored America’s heartland to find folks sufficiently open-minded to willingly and honestly take part in today’s acrimonious political discussions. The author has learned that speaking with both sides, liberals and conservatives, about the immigration debate could yield real results, perhaps even comity. Throughout his journey, Noorani found articulate ideologues, from a small-town sheriff to a political talking head to an archbishop. He explored America’s public policy concerning immigrants, refugees, and undocumented residents with entrepreneurs, farmers and tech engineers, politicians, pastors, and police chiefs. In a section regarding “Bibles, Badges and Business,” the author discusses thoughtful evangelicals, law enforcement officers, and captains of commerce. He chronicles his interviews with numerous people who have confronted the cultural challenges in different ways, from Arizona’s “show me your papers” law to its rejection in Utah, from the apple farmer providing homes for his workers while the local government withdraws support to the immigrants who decline to register to vote when they see traffic police in the neighborhood. Xenophobes and populists, the author discovered, imagine the economy to be a zero-sum game; their world is changing, and they are afraid. Yet, even if not one more newcomer crosses our border, birth rates will assuredly increase the numbers that will exacerbate a continuing problem for a free and caring nation. Throughout the book, Noorani reminds us all—vegetable farmers to tech engineers, culturally isolated coastal liberals and middle American conservatives, residents of big cities and small towns—that diversity is both difficult and important.

Solid advice for an anxious and angry polity on how to talk about a growing cultural challenge.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63388-307-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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