A provocative, well-argued take on a turbulent era.




Shlaes (Coolidge, 2013, etc.) offers a decidedly revisionist history of the 1960s in the United States.

“The New Deal created a forgotten man,” writes the author, chair of the board of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. “The Great Society created more.” In a follow-up to her The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (2007), Shlaes writes that Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms “seemed designed to finish the job” of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal government expansion and had similarly disastrous results. The 1960s reforms—community action, housing, and other programs—came “close enough to socialism to cause economic tragedy.” While action in the public sector spurred advances in civil rights and health care, Great Society economic programs, including the “lost” War on Poverty, encouraged “a new sense of hopelessness” in welfare recipients, stifled private sector innovation, and led to inflation and unemployment in the ’70s. Moreover, argues the author, “Great Society collectivism” resulted in enormous entitlement costs that make it difficult to address today’s pressing problems. She cautions against the present flirtation with “broad, vague, and romantic” socialism and champions free-market capitalism and an end to federal intrusions in local government. Her vividly detailed narrative brings to life the social, political, and economic issues of the period. Shlaes emphasizes the little-recognized, outsized role played in public policymaking by socialist labor leader Walter Reuther, a supporter of the radical group that spawned Students for a Democratic Society, led by “professional protester” Tom Hayden, whose 1962 Port Huron Statement helped inspire Johnson’s Great Society. Together with democratic socialist Michael Harrington, Reuther hoped Johnson would “complete” Roosevelt’s revolution. The author chronicles at length federal “arrogance” in dealing with mayors to implement community efforts. Her disdain for liberal reformers and intellectuals will trouble some readers, as will her insistence that private enterprise, with its efficiency and measures-of-success approach, would have succeeded where public action failed in the face of social and political chaos.

A provocative, well-argued take on a turbulent era.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-170642-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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