A splendid book full of obsessive travel and research in history, mythology, archaeology, biology, literature and religion.

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WHY DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE WORLD?

THE EPIC SAGA OF THE BIRD THAT POWERS CIVILIZATION

The title tells all in this comprehensive account of how an anti-social south Asian fowl became the world’s favorite food.

Today, there are more than 20 billion chickens, an astonishing number, admits Lawler, a contributing writer for Science magazine and freelance journalist. “Add up the world’s cats, dogs, pigs, and cows and there would still be more chickens,” writes the author. Wondering how it is that such a bird has become so ubiquitous in so many manifestations (from McNuggets to occupying Col. Sanders’ buckets), the author embarked on an epic journey of his own to libraries and universities (where he interviewed various authorities on the bird), cockfights in the Philippines, the jungles of Vietnam, the factory farms now processing the birds for mass consumption, and the animal rights activist who keeps but does not eat her chickens. Lawler also takes readers on a trip into deep history, showing us the natural history of the bird, the difficulties archaeologists have with them (their bones do not often survive long sojourns in the ground), and the religious significance of, especially, the rooster. Lawler examined the chicken carcasses that Darwin studied, and he quotes a Hamlet sentry who mentions a rooster. He tells about some long-ago uses of bird parts—e.g., the dung of a rooster could cure an ulcerated lung. We learn about weathervanes and how the bird has been roosting in our language: “chicken” (coward), “cock” (well, you know) and others. The author instructs us about chicken sexual unions and about the intricacies of the egg, and he eventually arrives at the moral question: Why do we treat these birds with such profound cruelty? He also acknowledges that chickens’ waste and demands on our resources are nothing like those of pigs and cows.

A splendid book full of obsessive travel and research in history, mythology, archaeology, biology, literature and religion.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-2989-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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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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