Those inclined to scorn the sitting president will have all the more reason to do so after reading this seething book.

HOAX

DONALD TRUMP, FOX NEWS, AND THE DANGEROUS DISTORTION OF TRUTH

A deep, dispiriting dive into the nefarious intersection of politics, conspiracy, lies, and money as served up by Donald Trump and Fox News.

There are moments when one feels almost sorry for Trump: His niece has spilled nasty beans about him, and his sister has chided him for lying. It’s all in a day’s work for him. The feeling sorry bit comes when CNN host Stelter suggests that Trump isn’t smart enough to concoct his bizarre gibberish. Instead, it comes straight from the “lie-laundering” Fox News, courtesy mostly of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham—and even Hannity, according to one of Stelter’s sources, says “that Trump is a batshit crazy person.” Trump lives by the TV, tuned to Fox unless some now-departed bête noire like Shepard Smith appears, and it’s from Fox that he takes his cues. All of them: a circus of disinformation about lab-hatched viruses, caravans full of terrorists from Guatemala, the “Mueller crime family” that engineered Trump’s scarcely mentioned impeachment, and a host of other alternative takes on reality. Stelter provides genealogies for each of Trump’s peevish prevarications, not least of them the insistence that the truth is a “hoax,” a word that “was uttered more than nine hundred times on Fox News in the first six months of 2020.” That numbing repetition, notes the author, erodes the truth with each mantralike utterance. Fox has needed Trump for ratings—its average viewer is 67, an obviously declining demographic—and Trump has needed Fox to serve as echo chamber and think tank. Each obliges the other: “Fox was the gas station where Trump stopped to fill up his tank of resentment,” and Trump lends Fox influence over U.S. policy. In a long, sordid, cheerless, and endlessly dishy narrative, Stelter indicts all parties involved for leaving the country “without a properly functioning chief executive.” (Editor’s Note: The paperback edition is revised and contains 20,000 more words.)

Those inclined to scorn the sitting president will have all the more reason to do so after reading this seething book.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982142-44-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: One Signal/Atria

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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