Political histories are often a snooze, but Riedel is a lively, opinionated writer whose sympathy with his subjects’...



An expert on the Middle East explores the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Since World War II, the U.S. has enjoyed a reliable ally in an Islamic theocracy dominated by a fundamentalist clergy intolerant of Western values. This oddball friendship receives a cleareyed if disturbing account by former CIA analyst and senior Middle East adviser Riedel (JFK’s Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA and the Sino-Indian War, 2015, etc.). He begins with a historic February 1945 meeting between Franklin Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud (1875-1953), an impressive figure who, over a lifetime, united most of the Arabian peninsula under his rule. Penniless and surrounded by hostile rivals mostly supported by Britain, which he detested, the king granted generous oil concessions and permission to build the first of many bases. Roosevelt aimed to persuade him to tolerate Jewish immigration to Palestine. Failing, he promised that America would “take no action…which might prove hostile to the Arab people.” Students of history know how that turned out. Saudi Arabia remained a backwater until the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when it led an oil embargo that quadrupled prices and introduced Americans to a Middle Eastern powerhouse. The alliance endures despite other “near-death” experiences such as America’s long preference for Iran, a bitter rival. The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War salvaged the partnership; both nations supported Iraq. The 1990s were a golden age when President George H.W. Bush sent troops to repulse Saddam Hussein; under Bill Clinton, the U.S. aggressively pursued a peace policy in the region. Serious strains arose after 9/11; 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, revealing that terrorism has long flourished in the kingdom.

Political histories are often a snooze, but Riedel is a lively, opinionated writer whose sympathy with his subjects’ viewpoints will enlighten most readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8157-3137-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Brookings Institution Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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


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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