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

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DERADICALIZATION AND THE JOURNEY BACK FROM EXTREMISM

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 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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