An illuminating look at what the brave new world of the future may hold.

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THE GENOME FACTOR

WHAT THE SOCIAL GENOMICS REVOLUTION REVEALS ABOUT OURSELVES, OUR HISTORY, AND THE FUTURE

A fresh look at the nature vs. nurture debate and the role of race in shaping intelligence and personality.

Conley (Sociology/Princeton Univ.; Parentology, 2014, etc.) and Fletcher (Public Affairs and Sociology/Univ. of Wisconsin) explore one of the main contentions made by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in their 1994 book, The Bell Curve: that “social policy to promote equal opportunity is counterproductive since individuals have reached the level of social status best suited to their native abilities.” Admittedly, there may well be “a gene for aggression,” but whether it lands a person in jail or a corporate boardroom depends on social factors. The subtleties inherent in the nature/nurture debate are often illuminated in studies of family dynamics. Surprisingly, the authors have found strikingly different educational outcomes within families due to the complex relationships between parents and siblings—e.g., when parents favor kids with athletic skills. The authors debunk the explanation that genetic superiority is a determining factor in the relationship between class and race and put the positive effects of racial diversity under the microscope. The relationship is also a product of “migration patterns from thousands of years ago” as well as cultural taboos regarding marriage. Ethnicity does play an important role, write the authors, but this may be explainable by proximity and rivalry for resources rather than genetics. Nonetheless, genetic diversity may be desirable because it offers protection against diseases. One classic example was the decimation of Native Americans due to the introduction of smallpox by colonists. Conley and Fletcher speculate about the future and how our increasing knowledge about the genome will directly shape mate choice, a more specific variant of our current preferences regarding race and appearance. They also touch on the possibility of genetic engineering, which would allow wealthy parents to produce designer-engineered offspring of their choosing. Six appendices briefly explore more technical issues such as epigenetics.

An illuminating look at what the brave new world of the future may hold.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-16474-8

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

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

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