An interesting manifesto that will incite debate, including whether it is overly simplistic and/or impractical.

AMERICAN MANIFESTO

SAVING DEMOCRACY FROM VILLAINS, VANDALS, AND OURSELVES

The Peabody Award–winning co-host of public radio’s On the Media offers his take on how to make America great again despite Donald Trump and his enablers.

Garfield’s (Bedfellows, 2012, etc.) manifesto stands out from those already published partly because of the specific proposals but mostly because of the breezy, often glib tone. Some readers will appreciate the irreverence as they digest the proposed solutions while others will find the tone jarring in the context of the serious subject matter. Before reaching the solutions portion of the manifesto, the author takes a stab at how the mess occurred. His primary culprit is the “well-intentioned multiculturalism” espoused by progressive, liberal citizens. Garfield suggests that the emphasis on personal identity has damaged our sense of common cause, atomized society, and, most significantly, led to a vicious backlash among millions of citizens who voted Donald Trump into office and gave Republican Party faux patriots control of Congress. The antagonism between belief systems became so toxic, Garfield argues, that in some respects, the nation has become a fascist state. The author also places blame on mainstream media moguls and their newsroom functionaries. Without vigorous journalism that can be trusted to disseminate accurate, fair reports, the current national crisis shows few signs of abating. As Garfield rightly points out, the respectable, trustworthy journalists who remain are too few and scattered to serve as an effective watchdog on government and corporate waste, fraud, and abuse. So-called digital journalists, writes Garfield, often spread lies and find receptive audiences among consumers who don’t do their homework. The author also offers some proposed solutions, including vastly improved, significantly more responsible journalism. “We can hold our heads in despair,” writes Garfield, “or we can repair what has been put asunder. Wishful thinking, you say? Pollyanna, you say? Totally fucking delusional, you say? No. It can be done.”

An interesting manifesto that will incite debate, including whether it is overly simplistic and/or impractical.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-280-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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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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