A potent cautionary tale of urban neglect and indifference. Infuriated readers will be heartened by the determined efforts...

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THE POISONED CITY

FLINT'S WATER AND THE AMERICAN URBAN TRAGEDY

The story of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis.

In 2014, the city of Flint—pop. 99,000, majority black—turned off its drinking water in preparation for joining a new regional water system. In the meantime, the city began using Flint River water. Officials said the interim source was safe. It wasn’t. In this complex, exquisitely detailed account, freelance journalist and Detroit Free Press contributor Clark (Michigan Literary Luminaries, 2015, etc.) draws on interviews, emails, and other materials to describe the ensuing catastrophe, in which city, state, and federal officials engaged in delays and coverups for 18 months while residents complained of discolored drinking water that caused rashes, hair loss, and diseases. Citizen demands for government action went ignored, “even ridiculed,” until public pressure, media coverage, and independent studies revealed the cause of the contaminated water: lead and other toxins traveling through aging pipes that lacked mandated corrosion control. The shameful story has its heroes—e.g., persistent engineer Marc Edwards, journalist Curt Guyette, and NPR’s Michigan Radio—and its “buck-passing and turf-guarding” villains, including countless officials who dodged responsibilities while lead-laced water killed 12 people and left a lingering uncertainty over possible long-term health effects. “An Obscene Failure of Government,” said a Detroit Free Press story. Clark goes far beyond the immediate crisis—captured nationally in images of bottled water being distributed to Flint’s poor, the most severely affected—to explain “decades of negligence” that had mired the city in “debt, dysfunctional urban policy, disappearing investment, disintegrating infrastructure, and a compromised democratic process.” She warns that other declining American cities are similarly threatened. A report of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission pointed to the long-standing “systemic racism” of segregated Flint, once a General Motors–led innovation hub that attracted many African-American workers. The city faces continuing lawsuits and use of bottled water until lead pipes are replaced by 2020.

A potent cautionary tale of urban neglect and indifference. Infuriated readers will be heartened by the determined efforts of protesters and investigative reporters.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-12514-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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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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