An erudite and impassioned call for the West to retake the lead in championing liberty.



Without America’s strength and influence, five former empires may vie for global power.

French philosopher, activist, and documentary filmmaker Lévy (The Genius of Judaism, 2017, etc.), a self-described “committed intellectual,” makes a compelling case that America’s isolationism has created a “great vacuum” that may incite aggressive political ambitions in five powers “bent on redrawing, in their favor, the global map of authority and power.” Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and radical Sunni Islam are beginning “to stir again, to set themselves in motion, and, given the world newly exposed by the American withdrawal…to recommence the assault on history.” For Lévy, America stands as an exceptional nation whose “political, mythological, and symbolic inheritance” impels it to carry the torch of democracy “into dark lands.” Unlike Woodrow Wilson in 1917 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, the last two presidents have turned away from European alliances: Barack Obama favored forging ties with Asia and refused to support France when Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons in Syria; Trump seemingly wants to withdraw from everything. The author also blames the decline of Western influence on “the digitization of the world,” where all “expressions of belief are of equal value,” an idea contorted by Trump into the notion of fake news. “What for so long had been known as ‘the truth,’ ” Lévy writes, “is really a shifting shadow.” Despite his admiration for Persian and Arab civilization and Russia’s great literature, the author condemns the five empires for their attraction to Nazism, anti-Semitism, fascism, and totalitarianism. In 1935, notes the author, Persia changed its name to Iran—“which, in Farsi, means ‘land of the Aryans’ ”—in a gesture of alignment with Hitlerism. Despite his dire warning, Lévy offers cautious hope: The five entities are economically and politically weak, and they lack a vision for a revival of culture and science, instead focusing, morbidly, on past grandeur.

An erudite and impassioned call for the West to retake the lead in championing liberty.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20301-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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