A passionate call for social change.

End of the Rainbow

An African-American novelist muses upon the world’s enduring racial tensions in this nonfiction work.

Miller (Seeds of Magnolia, 2014) asserts that “Everybody on the planet acts as if they are angry,” but “Although a lot of things are in disrepair, they can be fixed.” Black and white people alike can be racist, he says, and “We should stop making decisions, stop liking, and stop disliking based on the color of a person’s skin.” Referencing recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as his own experiences as an African-American man, he notes, “No one can intelligently argue that Blacks are not targeted by law enforcement officers.” Yet Miller also relates how white parents allowed him to study alone with their daughter. At another point, he notes, “We take it upon ourselves to judge others, but the Bible tells us that we should not” and uses the example of same-sex marriage: “If same sex relationships are wrong, then, according to the Holy Bible, God will judge and then render the punishment should there be any….Telling people who they can or cannot marry is getting too involved in what should be personal choices.” However, he devotes much of his book to detailing why white supremacists won’t let social harmony happen. He describes how a “rogue coalition” will likely mobilize to deal with the fact that white people are projected to no longer be the majority in America by 2042, saying that Asian, Latino, or Hispanic people “will be counted as White in order to maintain the White majority.” Miller also discusses how those seeking “one world government” would likely also assert white supremacy, as well as escalate other atrocities. Miller, who previously tapped into his own mixed-race family history to craft a Civil War–era novel, has written a thought-provoking work that’s most powerful when touching on his own experiences and encouraging others to embrace his stated philosophy: “I acknowledge acceptance of the multicultural diversity of the human race, knowing that every individual is different, yet all are equal.” While Miller may intend his detailing of various nefarious activities to serve as eye-opening warning, readers may wish that he spent more time on how American society could be changed for the better. Still, this book is clearly heartfelt and may serve as a conversation starter.

A passionate call for social change.

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5123-9047-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2015

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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