Dorfman’s likening of Donald Trump to Faulkner’s Flem Snopes alone is worth the price of admission, and if there’s a certain...




Chilean refugee Dorfman (Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile, 2011, etc.), long resident in the United States, turns in a spirited rebuke of things as they are.

As the author recalls, on arriving here in 1980 following the coup against Salvador Allende and some years of wandering thereafter, he and his wife were under no illusions that they were arriving at a shining city on the hill: “we were aware…of the way in which the United States, its corporations, its military, indeed its public, were complicit in crimes against humanity on every continent.” Nonetheless, he was grateful for the safe haven a second time, the first having been in 1945, and ever hopeful of the possibilities of true progress, even if they have been derailed of late by Trumpism. In this gathering of pieces for the New York Times, the Nation, the BBC, and other outlets, Dorfman sometimes writes from a particularly South American point of view, which is to say he falls back on tropes from Iberian and colonial history—e.g., offering Trump advice on rule from the mouth of Philip II of Spain: “And if current domestic insubordination were to contaminate the republic itself, consider the possibility of resurrecting the Holy Brotherhood of the Inquisition.” Anglo-American readers will be able to follow along without problem, though it will help to know the history of James Buchanan, even if some may be a touch bewildered by the arrival, as Dorfman comments, of more and more Latinos in American towns that never saw them before—especially in the South, where a “mega-Latino supermarket” selling products from all over the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world stands as testimonial to the impossibility of the Trumpian border wall, “vanquished by the very taco he grins at demonically in his Twitter post.”

Dorfman’s likening of Donald Trump to Faulkner’s Flem Snopes alone is worth the price of admission, and if there’s a certain sameness to the indignation piece after piece, it’s a worthy addition to the library of resistance.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944869-63-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: OR Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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