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CITY ON FIRE

THE FIGHT FOR HONG KONG

Excellent reportage that is of critical importance in understanding contemporary Chinese politics.

Australian lawyer and journalist Dapiran, a longtime resident of Hong Kong, gives a commanding firsthand account of the recent—and ongoing—protests there.

The author opens by first noting how freely Hong Kong police were in deploying tear gas to counter the seemingly unending chain of demonstrations that enveloped Hong Kong in 2019—in November, at a rate “approaching two rounds for every single minute of the day”—and how bravely the demonstrators fought back. As with the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989, the protests were touched off by a seemingly minor event, the question of whether an accused murderer sheltering in Hong Kong should be extradited to Taiwan, where he had committed his crime. That event gave rise to a broad-based discussion of whether the government in Beijing would observe the jealously guarded rights of the former British colony. “The year 2019 may be remembered as the year that defined post-handover Hong Kong; China’s answer to that question will determine whether 2019 will also be remembered as the last year of Hong Kong as it once was,” Dapiran writes. Beijing talks a good game of honoring those rights while taking an active role in trying to sway elections and inserting undercover soldiers and police on the streets, all the while attempting to avoid a Tiananmen-like crackdown at the cost of its international high standing. Dapiran argues that the 2019 protests were the continuation of the earlier “Umbrella Movement” of 2014. By implication, the author, who breathed in plenty of tear gas himself while monitoring them, suggests that the protests are likely to begin anew until Beijing honors the terms of the “One Country, Two Systems” model with which it has been trying to woo Taiwan to reunify—and he would seem to endorse the protestors’ claim that they “were freedom fighters not only for their own city, but for the world.”

Excellent reportage that is of critical importance in understanding contemporary Chinese politics.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-950354-27-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scribe

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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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

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