A balanced portrait of emotions, ideologies and awakenings on both sides of the racial divide as Mugabe’s abuses pushed a...




A native-born white farmer and his Mashona maid reveal very different aspects of Zimbabwe’s history over the past three decades.

London Sunday Times foreign-affairs correspondent Lamb (The Africa House: The True Story of an English Gentleman and His African Dream, 2005, etc.) first wrote about Nigel Hough and Aqui Shamvi in 2002, when Aqui apparently led an angry mob invading his homestead and screaming abuse. (In fact, she was trying to protect the Hough family, though at the time they felt betrayed.) Based on intensive interviews with both Nigel and Aqui, Lamb’s narrative traces their individual paths beginning in the 1970s, around the time that Robert Mugabe emerged as a revolutionary leader: hero to the black population (save a few of the majority Mashona’s tribal enemies) and bane of the white farmers, who owned most of the good land. Their recollections clearly delineate the cultural divide as Rhodesian white minority rule was forced to capitulate to multiracial elections and Mugabe’s accession as prime minister in 1980. Blacks, who had shared neither power nor privilege, had little notion of the role capital and investment played in making their nation an African showplace of high literacy rates and food surpluses. Average whites, on the other hand, hardly cared that members of a tribal society in which accruing more visible wealth than one’s neighbors was considered rude, even anti-social, might view them as infected with greed. Blacks gained admission to private schools and did as well as the best white students, to Nigel’s admitted surprise. Yet reconciliation had no chance, as Mugabe cemented his political monopoly by giving open blessing to farm seizures (euphemized as “land redistribution”) by ad hoc “war veteran” parties that drove most whites from a now-destitute country.

A balanced portrait of emotions, ideologies and awakenings on both sides of the racial divide as Mugabe’s abuses pushed a “model” African nation toward the brink of ruin.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-55652-735-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books/Chicago Review

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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