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DERADICALIZATION AND THE JOURNEY BACK FROM EXTREMISM

A provocative exploration of the appeal of terrorist groups and how to counter it effectively.

A National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist urges Americans to find new ways to think about terrorism and “deradicalizing” former violent extremists.

Power gives surprising answers to some of the knottiest moral, legal, and practical questions of the post–9/11 era: Why do people join terrorist groups? What do we owe former militants? What kinds of deradicalization will prevent recidivism? Drawing on globe-spanning interviews with sources ranging from lawyers and neurologists to former jihadis and their families, the author shows that violent extremists tend to lack the religious zealotry that Americans often ascribe to them. An expert on terrorist groups told her: “The reality is that by and large people don’t join for ideological reasons. They join for adventure, excitement, or camaraderie.” Many militants are also so young and gullible they are easy prey for the Islamic State group or other recruiters. In Britain, Power met with the mother of a slain 19-year-old who was so naïve when he joined IS that he called his mother from Syria to ask, “Mama, would it be okay if I rode on the commander’s motorbike?” In Pakistan, the author visited an acclaimed school that deradicalizes former Taliban soldiers, and in Jakarta, she spoke to an Indonesian man known as “the Terrorist Whisperer,” who helps ex-jihadis learn to give TED-style talks in the hope that their stories will deter others. Power’s exceptionally wide-ranging research persuaded her that Americans need to stop thinking about former militants in absolutist terms like “good and evil” and to take a more nuanced approach to fostering their deradicalization and preventing the backsliding that may occur during long imprisonments. Her argument may not sit well with those who—for religious, ideological, or other reasons—believe that evil exists and society benefits from acknowledging it, but this book is full of valuable insights into violent extremism.

A provocative exploration of the appeal of terrorist groups and how to counter it effectively.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-51057-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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