Civil libertarians will find this a valuable tool for mounting arguments in defense of free choice.

DRUG USE FOR GROWN-UPS

CHASING LIBERTY IN THE LAND OF FEAR

A full-throated defense of self-aware, voluntary drug use.

Hart, the first tenured African American professor of sciences at Columbia University and former psychology department head, calls himself “an unapologetic drug user.” His formulary is extensive, and it is likely only because he’s tenured that he so readily admits to a liking for—but not addiction to—heroin, along with an overstuffed medicine cabinet full of other substances. His book has two overarching purposes. The first is to argue that the grown-ups of his title can indeed use drugs of varying descriptions—mostly marijuana, likely, but up to and including methamphetamines and opioids—and still be responsible parents and citizens. As the author suggests, millions of grown-ups already do so, and despite all the warnings and admonitions against it, by Hart’s lights even pregnant women can use a little here and there without being or producing monsters. “It doesn’t matter whether the drug is alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, or weed,” he writes of the last point. “Consumption of any of these substances should be taken in consultation with a health-care professional and should be limited.” His second large point is that the classification of drug use and public-health and law enforcement attitudes toward it is thoroughly racialized: Crack cocaine use was considered an epidemic evil when minorities, especially Black people, were using it. However, when it developed that “most crack users were white, and most drug users bought their drugs from dealers within their own racial group,” the epidemic became one of concern rather than fear. Hart’s openness in admitting to the use, often by way of experimentation, of drugs ranging from MDMA to methamphetamine and hexedrone and beyond is admirable, but doubtless, his thesis that taking drugs should be a matter of private choice alone will meet with considerable resistance.

Civil libertarians will find this a valuable tool for mounting arguments in defense of free choice.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-101-98164-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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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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