A well-told chronicle of an ambitious sociological project of significant current importance.

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STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND

ANGER AND MOURNING ON THE AMERICAN RIGHT

An acclaimed liberal sociologist examines “the increasingly hostile split” between America’s two major political parties and “how life feels to people on the right—that is…the emotion that underlies politics.”

Five years before Donald Trump’s presidential bid caught fire, Hochschild (So How's the Family?: And Other Essays, 2013, etc.) decided she wanted to better understand the political and cultural divides in the United States by immersing herself in the anti-government tea party culture so foreign to her own beliefs. Traveling regularly from her Berkeley, California, home to Lake Charles, Louisiana, the author arranged to spend large amounts of time with tea party members and additional self-identified conservatives to figure out how they came to their beliefs. Hochschild felt especially puzzled by the paradox of Louisiana residents residing in dangerously polluted areas yet opposing environmental regulations proposed by both the state and federal governments. Though upset by seemingly racist, sexist, ageist, and economic class hatreds among the men and women she came to know, Hochschild says her determination to observe empathetically rarely flagged. She quickly realized that many of the stated views held of the tea party members were often not fact-based but rather grounded in what life feels like to them—e.g., government feels intrusive, liberals feel condescending, members of racial and ethnic minorities feel lazy and threatening. Trying to imagine herself as the Lake Charles residents viewed themselves, Hochschild vowed to immerse herself thoroughly enough to comprehend what she terms their "deep stories,” and she felt grateful that the tea party members who found her views offensive nonetheless shared their time and thoughts generously. At times, Hochschild flirts with overgeneralizing and stereotyping, but for the most part, she conducts herself as a personable, nonjudgmental researcher.

A well-told chronicle of an ambitious sociological project of significant current importance.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62097-225-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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