A must-read for policymakers but one that’s not too wonkish for lay readers.




A foreign policy scholar analyzes two decades of American policymaking to better understand the country’s uneasy posture toward globalized innovation, research, and development.

Kennedy (Public Policy/Australia National Univ.; The International Ambitions of Mao and Nehru, 2011, etc.) has long studied China and India. This book specifically examines the globalization of innovation, focusing on how the United States interacts with these two countries in the high-tech arena. Innovation, he says, increasingly involves collaboration. Modern transportation, information, and communications technologies facilitate cross-border exchanges of ideas, people, and investments—but politics, he points out, can constrain these activities. Kennedy considers policies that regulate admission of skilled immigrants, allocation of foreign student visas, and offshoring of research-and-development services. In the first of five concise, well-organized chapters, he quantifies transnational flows of brainpower and R&D investment, tracking the rise of foreign-born students in higher education, international co-authorship of scientific papers, and overseas laboratories opened by multinational corporations. Next, he characterizes the U.S. high-tech community, “HTC,” as an interest group with business and academic wings and proposes explanations for America’s varying levels of openness. The last three chapters test his hypotheses through case studies of immigration, student visas, and offshoring. Kennedy details how the H-1B visa program for skilled workers expanded before 2004 but declined as citizen groups intensified opposition. He finds more consistent policy in soaring F-1 visas for foreign students; a slight decline followed the 9/11 attacks, but the HTC’s academic wing faced little opposition in re-establishing an open-door policy. The HTC’s business wing, he says, has also been partially successful in defeating anti-offshoring proposals; again, citizen opposition groups proved more decisive than labor. Kennedy concludes that inconsistent American policies toward global innovation reflect domestic political battles rather than coherent strategy. Drawing on research from 2017, the author also thoughtfully writes about whether anti-immigration fervor will recede after President Donald Trump leaves office, allowing more openness to collaboration with China and India. His last sentence: “Whether the United States will pursue such collaboration in a more intelligent way, one that addresses the shortcomings of its current approach, remains to be seen.” Throughout this work, Kennedy effectively demonstrates his thesis that innovation is indeed globalizing. His portrait of an ad-hoc legislative patchwork, driven more by intensity than by majority opinion, raises clear concerns about America’s future competitiveness. The text is replete with data and examples and supported with numerous graphs and tables, but the narrative flow never stumbles or feels overburdened. Overall, Kennedy writes with a clarity and command of his subject, and this provides an easy path for readers to follow. Extensive endnotes and a 34-page bibliography substantiate his prodigious research, which includes interviews with 72 sources from government, business, labor and citizen groups in all three nations at hand. As President Trump pursues trade battles abroad and an anti-immigration agenda at home, this cogent work from a seasoned observer of Asia and the United States could not be more timely—or, indeed, more necessary.

A must-read for policymakers but one that’s not too wonkish for lay readers.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-231-18554-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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