A slow read—sometimes those 444 days seem to pass in real time—but full of thought-provoking insights on one of the world’s...

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THE CRISIS

THE PRESIDENT, THE PROPHET, AND THE SHAH--1979 AND THE COMING OF MILITANT ISLAM

The first shot in the current war between Wahhabis and Westerners, suggests veteran political journalist Harris (Shooting the Moon, 2001, etc.), was fired in Teheran a quarter of a century ago.

Actually, writes Harris, there wasn’t much shooting when a swarm of revolutionary guards and students seized the US embassy in 1979: the attack came as a surprise, and the attackers were so numerous that they were able to swarm over their American adversaries. (The Marine guards also showed restraint, Harris might have added.) The authors of the plot to capture the US embassy had smaller ambitions than came to be played out. Twenty-two-year-old engineering student Ibrahim Asgarzadeh planned instead to seize the compound for two or three days and, rather like the SDS at Columbia, use the experience to secure a forum for their grievances against the US: “The object of their action was not revenge but illumination.” Hotter heads prevailed, and the rest is a history that Harris does a generally good job of capturing. He’s sharply critical of the last Shah of Iran, who spent his country’s money lavishly, yet also shows a few flickers of admiration for a man who seems to have known that he was playing an elaborate role; the shah’s downfall, he suggests, came as much from the rise of Jimmy Carter, who had small patience for Iran’s feared secret police and the shah’s excuses that “it was only communists he hunted,” as it did from homegrown restiveness and the rumblings of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The seizure of the embassy rings strange echoes today; Harris notes that in October 2001 the Bush administration quashed a lawsuit by the surviving hostages against the Islamic Republic of Iran, a part of the supposed axis of evil, while even as the Iranian revolution ate its first generation of young, it continues to inspire anti-Western militants around the world.

A slow read—sometimes those 444 days seem to pass in real time—but full of thought-provoking insights on one of the world’s preeminent trouble zones.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2004

ISBN: 0-316-32394-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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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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