A solid overview of how psychology, rather than violence, might provide the way to peace.

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THE ISRAELI MIND

HOW THE ISRAELI NATIONAL CHARACTER SHAPES OUR WORLD

An attempt “to forge a comprehensive, provocative, and accessible narrative about the Israeli mind.”

Israeli-American clinical psychologist Gratch (If Love Could Think: Using Your Mind to Guide Your Heart, 2005, etc.), based in New York, uses his background as a sabra (an Israeli Jew born in Israel), combined with humor and anecdotal evidence, to provide a useful exploration of Israeli national character traits, most of which he shares. The “outside-inside” approach is compelling, though admittedly, the author is wading into perilous waters; a fellow scholar warned him that “the very concept of national character could be racist.” Yet as a psychologist, Gratch is fascinated by group action and conflict resolution. First, he delves into the trauma and fragmentation inherent in the Israeli makeup: the endurance of cycles of war and peace, followed by immigrant arrival and absorption, dramatic change, instability, and forced adaptability. Israelis are hugely polarized along right-left lines and largely secular yet devoted to the national Jewish founding (i.e., biblical) myth, although Gratch shows how each side is passionately attracted to its opposite—a reflection of Freud’s concept of reaction formation. The author offers astute observations regarding the mind and actions of the narcissist. On one hand, the Jews’ self-identity as the chosen people allowed them a self-aggrandizing role in history; on the other hand, their “outsized” accomplishments in all fields over the ages have resulted from a “compensatory drive” to overcome their sense of insignificance. Another facet of Israeli narcissism, Gratch notes, is the lack of empathy, revealed in the inability to understand and experience the plight of their neighbors, the Palestinians. More troubling than the Israeli disrespect for authority and penchant for cutting corners is the deeply internalized sense of victimization that manifests in paranoia and defensiveness—a frightening mix vis-à-vis the Iran nuclear crisis and conflict with the Palestinians.

A solid overview of how psychology, rather than violence, might provide the way to peace.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06780-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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