A riveting exploration of the cost of the nation’s fascination with an iconic weapon.
How an influential gun design became central to debates over Second Amendment rights.
In this superb history of an innovative weapon, McWhirter and Elinson, who both cover the gun industry for the Wall Street Journal, track the invention of the AR-15 rifle in the 1950s, adoption by the American military in the 1960s (where it was known as the M16), and gradual rise to notoriety toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st as it became, in the semiautomatic form in which it was sold to the public, a favored choice of mass shooters. The authors begin with an exploration of the life and career of Eugene Stoner (1922-1997), a gifted engineer who sought to create a weapon superior to those used by American soldiers in World War II. The authors then give insightful commentary on the evolution of Stoner’s signature creation, disastrous deployment in Vietnam after ill-considered modifications, slow introduction to civilian gun aficionados and gradually rising profile in pop culture, provocation of outrage after being used in notorious crimes, and eventual transformation into a symbol of freedom embraced by the National Rifle Association and hard-line gun-rights advocates. This is a meticulously researched and impressively informed book; despite careful explanations of technical details, the narrative moves along briskly and engagingly. Furthermore, McWhirter and Elinson clearly and fairly handle the sometimes-complex motivations of those seeking to promote the AR-15 along with the frequently base impulses of those looking to profit without moral concern. What emerges, too, through accounts of individuals who have fallen victim to gun violence, is a harrowing sense of the enormous suffering wrought by this invention and the seemingly insurmountable political resistance to mitigating it in any significant way. Ultimately, readers gain an unsettling and timely understanding of how “a device created to protect America [is] wounding it.”A riveting exploration of the cost of the nation’s fascination with an iconic weapon.
Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023
Page Count: 496
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: June 15, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023
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by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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