Solid, eminently readable reportage that offers no comfort for readers on the lookout for that light at the end of the...

NIGHT DRAWS NEAR

IRAQ’S PEOPLE IN THE SHADOW OF AMERICA’S WAR

Sharp-edged profiles of ordinary Iraqis, many of whom, tired of awaiting democracy, are practicing resistance.

An Arabic-speaking Lebanese-American from Oklahoma, Washington Post reporter Shadid found it comparatively easy to move among the civilian population of Iraq, and among people who have been careful to guard their thoughts from officials of whatever uniform. Heralds of unintended consequences, American occupation forces in Iraq have made the country “an unwilling participant, drafted into a fight that it did not solicit”; the fall of Saddam, Shadid remarks, ushered in not the “liberation” that the administration held as a mantra, but instead confusion and indeterminacy. One bit of confusion is voiced by a bright Shiite woman named Yasmine, who wonders how it could be that the Donald Rumsfeld who came to Baghdad in 1983 full of praise for the Baathist regime of Saddam could return 20 years later with news that Saddam was a font of evil in the modern world. “Why didn’t the American officials see Saddam for what he was years earlier?” Shadid writes, voicing her wonder. Saddam Hussein was widely loathed and reviled, and few in Iraq had problems with his absence per se; still, the longer American boots remain on Iraqi ground, the more the Iraqi resistance grows, and Shadid charts some unlikely alliances among Iraqis divided along every possible axis but who agree that the occupiers must go. Says one, a sheik often at odds with the regime and often imprisoned as a consequence, “When I was in jail, we thought about how Saddam could be overthrown. I told the other prisoners, ‘If Bush gets rid of Saddam, I’ll paint a picture of him and hang it in my house.’ ” He adds that he will now do so only when he is certain that the Americans are liberators, not occupiers—as no one now seems sure, with no end in sight to the fighting, and no resolution of all that confusion.

Solid, eminently readable reportage that offers no comfort for readers on the lookout for that light at the end of the tunnel.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2005

ISBN: 0-8050-7602-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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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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