Wrenching human drama, bogged down in a plethora of details that often make for tedious reading.

ASYLUM DENIED

A REFUGEE’S STRUGGLE FOR SAFETY IN AMERICA

A dismaying account of bureaucracy at its red-tape-bound worst.

Kenney, who was imprisoned and tortured for leading a tea farmer’s protest in Kenya, was fortunate to be befriended by generous Peace Corps workers, who helped get him out of Kenya and to the United States on a basketball scholarship in 1995. He was also fortunate to meet Schrag, who heads Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Legal Studies, an organization that helps asylum seekers. Schrag provides an introduction that explains how the co-authors worked together to present the story from Kenney’s point of view. Kenney accumulated mountains of paperwork and endured countless frustrations as he worked his way through a labyrinth of federal courts and other government agencies, struggling to comply with complex rules and regulations while pleading his case before seemingly arbitrary, sometimes openly hostile officials. Facing deportation in 2004, he left for Africa, where he was captured and nearly killed by rebel forces in Tanzania. Bribery was a standard part of nearly every transaction, but after extraordinary difficulties with an epithet-spouting official at the U.S. consulate, he succeeded in getting an immigrant visa and returned to his pregnant wife in America. The authors make clear that the odds are against asylum seekers, especially since 9/11. Each has his own epilogue: Kenney’s is deeply personal, Schrag’s is a lawyerly analysis of what’s wrong with the way the United States treats immigrants and how the system could be improved.

Wrenching human drama, bogged down in a plethora of details that often make for tedious reading.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-520-25510-4

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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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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