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

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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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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