While often an exercise in preaching to the choir, the book is also a fiery sermon that weighs the nation and finds it...

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AMERICA

THE FAREWELL TOUR

With a trademark blend of heavy-handed polemic and sharply observed detail, Hedges (Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, 2015, etc.) writes a requiem for the American dream.

“This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races,” writes the author. “It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited up a figure like Trump.” There’s not much room for evenhanded debate in the face of such language, but that’s beside the point: Hedges is ticked off, as ever, and here he is in full-tilt righteous indignation, making it clear that it’s not just Christians who are awaiting the apocalypse. Hedges limns an America whose economy is presupposed on mindless consumption and permanent war, in which the rich are now busily honoring Karl Marx’s prediction that in the end times, “the capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it”—health care, education, infrastructure, and so forth. That much seems inarguable. Hedges doubles down on the apocalyptic prophecy as his argument builds: “Droughts, floods, famines, and disease will eventually see the collapse of social cohesion,” he writes, “including U.S. coastal areas.” Nobody said that climate change and its effects would be pretty, but the author lays it on thickly as he delivers a comprehensive, onrushing litany of the horrors that await us. Where he uses hard data—as when he calculates that despite at annual expenditure of $76 billion in the war on drugs, overdose deaths have increased by 400 percent since 1999—Hedges is nearly unassailable. Where he relies on mere rhetoric, as in a rather strange disquisition on sex work, sadism, and capitalism, he’s less satisfying. His breadth of reference, however, is refreshing, drawing on the likes of Plato, Émile Durkheim, and Eric Voegelin—and lots of Marx—for reinforcement.

While often an exercise in preaching to the choir, the book is also a fiery sermon that weighs the nation and finds it wanting.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5267-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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