An excellent resource on terrorism for professionals and lay readers alike.

Why "Good Kids" Turn Into Deadly Terrorists


A scholarly but accessible analysis of young terrorists that draws on behavioral and social science.

In this book, LoCicero (Creating Young Martyrs, 2008) explores the complex interplay of personal and cultural factors that produces terrorists. She particularly focuses on the two men who were accused of carrying out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing while also surveying the spectrum of youth violence in America. Along the way, she blends in her own perspective on the attack, which was in her hometown, with her experience as a clinical psychologist studying traumatized youth worldwide. The title reflects the dissonance between Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s alleged deeds and the seemingly “normal American kids” that their friends, teachers and neighbors thought they knew. LoCicero convincingly shows that the brothers fit a pattern of young immigrants caught between conflicting identities and loyalties who become susceptible to extremism after personal crises, parental loss or neglect, drug abuse or financial setbacks. She devotes an entire chapter to how terrorist organizations recruit such people, arguing that behind every child soldier or young terrorist, there’s an adult recruiter who profits. Her prescription for preventing terrorism is to short-circuit such recruitment—first, by improving dialogue and engagement with young people, and second, by reducing the social injustice and conflicts worldwide that breed grievances. Hard-liners may equate trying to understand terrorists with excusing their actions, but the author reasons that simply labeling them evil or insane, and relying on incarceration or assassination, does little to prevent future acts. LoCicero often makes her case with great clarity and precision. Sometimes, however, there’s needless repetition; for example, she reminds readers eight times that the boat on which Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was caught was docked in Watertown, Massachusetts. On the other hand, she also constructs her arguments in ways that any layman can understand. The superbly researched, clearly cited book provides a wealth of resources for further reading. LoCicero’s stated goal for her book is “to reduce terrorism and reduce prejudice against foreign-born, young Americans, simultaneously.” That’s a tall order, perhaps beyond the reach of a single work, but she has made a significant contribution to the cause.

An excellent resource on terrorism for professionals and lay readers alike.

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1440831881

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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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