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TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY

THE SEDUCTIVE LURE OF AUTHORITARIANISM

A knowledgeable, rational, necessarily dark take on dark realities.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020


  • New York Times Bestseller

Equal parts memoir, reportage, and history, this sobering account of the roots and forms of today’s authoritarianism, by one of its most accomplished observers, is meant as a warning to everyone.

Known for her historically grounded commentary and such well-received histories as the Pulitzer Prize–winning Gulag (2003), Atlantic staff writer Applebaum, a reflective, deep-thinking conservative, explores the “restorative nostalgia” and “authoritarian predisposition” of the far right in the U.S. and Europe. Her motivation in writing is a fear of the possible “fall of liberal democracy.” Sadly, she writes, “given the right conditions, any society can turn against democracy. Indeed, if history is anything to go by, all of our societies eventually will.” Well-acquainted with many of the figures she discusses, Applebaum analyzes the forces that have caused so many of them to turn ugly, revanchist, and unreasoning. She takes her examples mostly from Europe—Hungary, Poland, Spain, and Britain in particular—but also from Trump’s America. Sometimes too discursive, sometimes overlong (as on Laura Ingraham), the book is nevertheless critically important for its muscular, oppositionist attack on the new right from within conservative ranks—and for the well-documented warning it embodies. The author’s views are especially welcome because she is a deliberate thinker and astute observer rather than just the latest pundit or politico. In the spirit of Julien Benda, Hannah Arendt, and Theodor Adorno, Applebaum seeks to understand what makes the new right “more Bolshevik than Burkean.” Needless to say, any attack that places Viktor Orbán, Boris Johnson, and Donald Trump in the company of Lenin and Stalin is worthy of close attention. The author is highly instructive on what is happening in the increasingly grim realm of the far right: a hardening of bitterness and unreasoning vengefulness and a resulting shift of the spectrum that puts a growing number of conservatives like Applebaum in the center.

A knowledgeable, rational, necessarily dark take on dark realities.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54580-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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