Thoroughly depressing—but urgent, necessary reading, at least for those who aren’t true believers in the Trumpite cause.

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IT'S EVEN WORSE THAN YOU THINK

WHAT THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS DOING TO AMERICA

If there’s such a genre as anti-hagiography, Johnston (The Making of Donald Trump, 2016, etc.) adds materially to it with this new polemic against the sitting president.

If the Trump administration can boast of an accomplishment to date, writes the author, it is that “thanks to Trump the mentally ill now have virtually the same gun rights as the sane.” One might think this a questionable contribution to the commonwealth, but, Johnston argues with a fine and steely sense of indignation, that is precisely the point. Where other presidents have had agendas in the national interest and reformist tendencies toward the same end, “the Trump presidency is about Trump. Period. Full stop.” That includes various kleptocratic schemes, such as the evasion of the anti-emoluments clause mostly by simply ignoring it and being abetted by a Republican Congress all too willing to overlook constitutional niceties. Thus it is, Johnston chronicles, that the president continues to cash in on the Trump Hotel just down the street from the White House, with staffers hanging out in the lobby to record who comes and goes, to be rewarded accordingly. It also includes turning a blind eye to the dismantling of the administrative state by “termites” who operate behind closed doors, carefully shielded from public view as they destroy agencies and records. Johnston is very good at connecting odd dots: why, for instance, would Trump want to annihilate an agency devoted to increasing American trade exports abroad? Because part of the deal is to push renewable energy, and Trump “has attacked renewable energy again and again.” Never mind collusion with Russia, election-fixing, vote suppression, and all the rest. The author writes without an ounce of self-congratulation that he’s been warning about the dangers of Trump for years, and it’s all coming true—including, he adds, his prediction that “as president, Trump’s behavior would become increasingly erratic. And it has.”

Thoroughly depressing—but urgent, necessary reading, at least for those who aren’t true believers in the Trumpite cause.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7416-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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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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