The debut of a sharp new pundit, just in time for an overdue national debate.

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THE TRAP

SELLING OUT TO STAY AFLOAT IN WINNER-TAKE-ALL AMERICA

An impassioned new voice proffers political self-help for a downtrodden polity.

Taking a sharp left turn from the literary path trod by fellow Yale grad William Buckley, Brook (class of 2000) enters the public-policy arena as a vehement opponent of the conservative agenda he declares responsible for a nation increasingly separated by class. We have a society defined by everything that money can buy, Brook states. The egalitarian America created by FDR’s New Deal was intentionally dismantled once conservatives in the 1960s got a gander at the results: working-class kids going to elite schools, blue-collar jobs with middle-class salaries, pensions and health care. Today, by contrast, big corporations have abrogated the social contract. Prestigious universities have raised tuitions so high that their students either come from vast wealth to begin with or graduate with a load of debt so crippling that only a huge salary will keep them solvent. Well-educated lefties either starve or sell out. With fine, often ad hominem rhetoric and anecdotal examples from both coasts, our angry polemicist examines societal gaps in housing, schooling, employment and health care. He addresses regressive tax policy and white-shoe law firms. Target, Wal-Mart and Google get theirs, and he takes on the diverse philosophies of Bill Clinton, Barry Goldwater, Milton Friedman and the Gipper. Brook has done his homework; he cites census figures, for example, to make his point that Manhattan at the end of the 20th century “had income disparities on a par with the African nation of Namibia, the most unequal country in the world.” Along with copious evidence of an unjust society, he offers a few simple suggestions for domestic improvement.

The debut of a sharp new pundit, just in time for an overdue national debate.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8065-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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