A hard sell for nonacademic readers but an elucidating journey for scholars.




A scholarly, depressing portrait of a country whose allegiance to Islam has not been able to hold it together nor prevent its being convulsed by cycles of violence.

Pakistani-American historian Jalal (History/Tufts Univ.; The Pity of Partition: Manto's Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide, 2013, etc.) offers a comprehensive history of Pakistan since its inception in 1947, with an eye toward its defining post-colonial element: military rule. Envisioned by its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as an arrangement of equitable power sharing between the Muslim provinces and Hindustan (as he called India), Pakistan nonetheless emerged with the dismembered provinces Punjab and Bengal a “truncated…moth-eaten and mutilated state” that was expected to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. While created as a Muslim homeland, Pakistan left 40 million “to their own devices in mainly Hindu India.” Adding to the imminent instability was the new nation’s push to adopt Urdu as its official language, when nearly 25 percent of the population of East Pakistan was Hindu and used other predominant languages like Pashtun. Jinnah’s early death in 1948 left an unfortunate leadership vacuum and a perpetual internal debate over Pakistan’s national identity. Jalal delineates painstakingly how, in the decades that followed, Pakistan, unlike India, was unable to build institutions of participatory democracy and instead moved toward a centralization of power “under the auspices” of military and bureaucracy. Alliance with the United States is not the sole reason for its militarism, argues Jalal, but it was fed by paranoia of India’s dominance over Kashmir and the need to build its defense forces. Tracing key events—the initial imposition of martial law by President Iskander Mirza in 1958, the 1971 civil war that created Bangladesh, the rise and fall of populist leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and one assassination after the other—Jalal brings us to the present day, where Pakistan, despite being called a failing or failed state, continues to hope for change.

A hard sell for nonacademic readers but an elucidating journey for scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-05289-5

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet