An engaging and challenging read.

REVOLUTIONARY THREADS

RASTAFARI, SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS

A post-hardcore rock star, community activist, and social justice intellectual offers an alternative look at countercolonial history through the lens of the Rastafari movement.

Clearly having developed into far more than his punk-influenced history suggests, Sullivan offers a vibrant examination of American and African history with an anti-colonial patina, colored by episodes from the lives of fascinating and often controversial figures in both the past and contemporary history. Not quite a manifesto and not quite a memoir, the book incorporates aspects of both into an unusual but compelling narrative that encourages cooperation for the greater good, cultural tolerance, and equitable relationships among all peoples—a process akin to “decolonizing our minds.” The author begins with some anecdotes that will be fascinating for those of us who remember the days of Minor Threat and Bad Brains in the D.C. punk scene. Sullivan (a self-described “racially ambiguous white kid”) recounts venturing out with his friend Johnny Temple (who would go on to found Akashic Books, among numerous other exploits) to see Toots and the Maytals, accidentally meeting Doctor Dread, and landing jobs at the famous RAS Records. From there, the author spins a culturally rich, spiritually uplifting history of the world that stretches from Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie, a central figure in Rastafari culture, to the abolitionist John Brown to Marilyn Buck, the violent revolutionary and poet whom Sullivan corresponded with until her death in 2010. Along the way, the author frequently returns to themes that are clearly important to him, including prison ministry and reform, the power of collectivism, the meaning of resistance, and the importance of unity among all peoples. It’s a messy story, with charged touchstones that some readers will find uncomfortable, but it comes together well, and Sullivan offers a strong argument for cooperative economics.

An engaging and challenging read.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61775-655-9

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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