A finely argued contribution to the discussion of immigration, its decidedly scholarly bent notwithstanding.

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INTIMATE STRANGERS

ARENDT, MARCUSE, SOLZHENITSYN, AND SAID IN AMERICAN POLITICAL DISCOURSE

A scholarly exercise imparting astute observations about the reception of immigrants and their enormous contributions to their adopted society.

Taking four very different “foreigners” in America, Ritivoi (English/Carnegie Mellon Univ.; Paul Ricoeur: Tradition and Innovation in Rhetorical Theory, 2006, etc.) delineates how each challenged the prevailing political discourse and even changed it for the better. In spite of the criticism and suspicion surrounding their “foreignness”—Hannah Arendt and Herbert Marcuse came from Germany, Alexander Solzhenitsyn from Russia, all three struggled with English, while Edward Said attended Harvard and inherited his Palestinian father’s U.S. citizenship—these four intellectuals had a profound, even prophetic effect on the “citizen ethos” that never quite accepted them. The four used what Ritivoi calls their “stranger persona” to generate original ideas and impart the vision of an impartial observer, desperately lacking in the rather closed-minded, self-congratulatory society that America had become after World War II. Although foreigners were welcomed as part of the founding myth of the country, and accepted, like Alexis de Tocqueville a century earlier, as “enlightened travelers,” the intellectuals who were forced here by oppression in their own countries were viewed with suspicion, considered arrogant and “undesirable.” Yet these four immigrants did not hesitate to use certain effective rhetorical devices in their writings to counter these tenacious “habits of exclusion." For example, Arendt employed irony in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) to unsettle notions of sentimental patriotism; Marcuse used his revolutionary notoriety to forge political activism; Solzhenitsyn found in the jeremiad of his 1978 Harvard commencement address the vehicle with which to urge America to return to its founding greatness; Said used denunciation in Orientalism and elsewhere to underscore the hypocrisy of Western liberalism.

A finely argued contribution to the discussion of immigration, its decidedly scholarly bent notwithstanding.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-231-16868-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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