A learned, forceful analysis that treats Islam with respect, not condescension.

ISLAM AND THE WEST

Eleven superb essays on the culture clash between the Islamic nations of the Middle East and the more secularized West, from distinguished Orientalist Lewis (Near Eastern Studies/Princeton; Semites and Anti-Semites, 1986, etc.).

Scholarly but not pedantic, writing without fear or favor, Lewis makes an ideal guide through the political, religious, and cultural thickets of Islam. As the range of subjects demonstrates, his reach is as wide as his touch is sure. His tone is objective throughout, except for two pieces: a searing critique of Edward Said and other critics of Orientalism for their "science-fiction history and...lexical Humpty-Dumptyism''; and an impassioned defense of non-Western studies against adversaries who employ contradictory rhetoric to mask a hidden agenda ("If we don't study and teach other cultures we are called arrogant and ethnocentric and if we do we are accused of spoliation and exploitation''). Lewis begins with a capsule history that outlines the odd affinities and tensions between Europe and the Islamic nations—a struggle in which each side has called the other "infidel'' and has swapped commercial and military supremacy. He also considers medieval Islamic debates on worship in lands where the teachings of Mohammed did not hold sway—and the implications of this today amid the Arab diaspora to Europe and America. Lewis is equally comfortable with more specialized topics, including Edward Gibbon's influence on the Western image of Mohammed; the difficulties of translating from Arabic; and the Ottoman threat to Europe until the Turkish defeat at Vienna in 1683. The author concludes with four meditations on the contemporary Islamic response to Western might, discussing resurgent Islamic fundamentalism as a unifying factor in Mideast politics; the split between the Shi'a and Sunni sects; the passage of the concept of "country'' into Islamic lands; and why few Islamic countries have traditions of religious coexistence and secularism.

A learned, forceful analysis that treats Islam with respect, not condescension.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-19-507619-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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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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