For a vastly more substantial approach, see Samantha Power’s “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (2002).

EXTRAORDINARY EVIL

WHY GENOCIDE HAPPENS

Or, when bad things happen to good peoples: an educator’s explanation, predictably oversimplified, of what causes one ethnic group to massacre another one.

If you want to know why people do such things, look at a schoolyard, where, Coloroso (The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, 2004, etc.) suggests, it’s easy to find the precursors of genocide. That is to say, genocide is “the most extreme form of bullying—a far too common behavior that is learned in childhood and rooted in contempt for another human being who has been deemed to be, by the bully and his or her accomplices, worthless, inferior, and undeserving of respect.” The historical literature is unrevealing as to whether, say, Adolf Hitler beat up his schoolmates at recess, but, Coloroso notes, the Turks slaughtered the Armenians because, among other things, they were sure they could get away with it; Hitler emulated the Turks in slaughtering the Jews, saying, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”; and the Hutus of Rwanda emulated Hitler in slaughtering the Tutsi, modeling their campaign on the Nuremburg Laws and carefully citing the speeches of the Nazi leader. The chain suggests that the perpetrators of genocide have a greater sense of history and of historical amnesia than do most people, but Coloroso chalks such terrible acts up to a grown-up reflex of what she deems the “schoolyard bullying circle,” something that, she writes, she uses “when speaking to educators…to demonstrate in graphic form the manner in which the three characters (bully, bullied and bystander) act in relation to one another and play a part in bullying.” And so the book continues, adding up to a PowerPoint presentation for a guidance counselors’ convention.

For a vastly more substantial approach, see Samantha Power’s “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (2002).

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-56858-371-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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

NIGHT

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

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