A potent book that readers won’t soon forget, and a warning of what can come of an insatiable market that knows no borders.




GQ and Mother Jones contributing editor Bowden (Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing: Living in the Future, 2009, etc.) digs into the complexities behind the ominous escalation of violence in Ciudad Juárez, a city across the border from El Paso that now has the tragic distinction of being the most dangerous city in the world.

In 2006, shortly after his controversial election, Mexican President Felipe Calderón, whom half of the nation considers illegitimate, declared war on the region’s drug cartels. He sent thousands of federal troops to Juárez’s state of Chihuahua, vowing to hunt down the leaders of the major drug distributors. At the same time, women in Juárez began to disappear, and their decomposing bodies began turning up in shallow graves in the desert. The disturbing trend was echoed by a simultaneous increase in rape and domestic violence in all of Juárez’s social strata. For the city’s unskilled labor force, the primary alternative to the drug business is a job in a maquila, whose ultra-low wages assure manufacturers from El Norte cheap production of goods for the global economy. Add to the mix a local police force willing to sell its guns to the highest bidder, and you have the makings of a potentially viral social disaster. Bowden began following the murders in March 2008. Before long, they outpaced his ability to contextualize them. Were they all drug-related? How many were committed for revenge or just the thrill of it by killers taking advantage of the growing lawlessness? Were the cartels behind them, or the police? Or the army, charged with restoring order? Straightforward answers elude the author, as they do nearly every observer—the city’s journalists, who are challenged to report on crimes without inciting killers to come after them; the social workers who deal with the human detritus who survive the violence; even a reformed sicario (assassin) who can only lovingly relate the gruesome details of his former craft but is clueless about who ordered his services or why. Bowden uses his tremendous talents to tell a haunting, darkly poetic story of a city’s horrifying descent into madness and anarchy.

A potent book that readers won’t soon forget, and a warning of what can come of an insatiable market that knows no borders.

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-56858-449-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?