A welcome resurrection of a forgotten riot with relevance for our current fragmented political landscape.

THE HARDHAT RIOT

NIXON, NEW YORK CITY, AND THE DAWN OF THE WHITE WORKING-CLASS REVOLUTION

An account of a mostly forgotten 1970 altercation between New York City construction workers and citizens protesting the continuing war in Southeast Asia.

The majority of the violence occurred on May 8, 1970, four days after the Kent State tragedy. Kuhn, who has written for Politico, RealClearPolitics, and CBS News, among other outlets, explains how the tension had been building for several years—and on a variety of fronts. In addition to regular protests around the country, these included the campus of Columbia University, the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the 1969 Moratorium To End the War in Vietnam, and, perhaps most significantly, within the rhetoric of Richard Nixon, both as a candidate and as president. For a few chapters, Kuhn foreshadows the violence committed by the construction workers while providing educated suppositions about why the NYPD seemed mostly unprepared to protect the protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. The graphic accounts of the violence occupy more than 80 pages, a section that ends chillingly: “The reporter asked Tallman, Would you hurt demonstrators again? ‘You bet. If they come back here Monday, we’ll give them the chase of their lives.’ ‘We’ll kill them,’ his friend added.” The author focuses not only on the construction workers, protesters, and police, but also NYC Mayor John Lindsay, who noted on the morning of May 8 that the hard hats were “out for blood today.” As Kuhn shows, Lindsay, a Republican who, two years later, “was the most liberal candidate in the Democratic race,” failed to fully grasp the combustible nature of the conflicting actors. Throughout the narrative, the author wrestles with conflicting ideologies of patriotism, especially as symbolized by the American flag. In a trenchant epilogue, Kuhn connects dots from the events of that summer to the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump.

A welcome resurrection of a forgotten riot with relevance for our current fragmented political landscape. (b/w photos)

Pub Date: July 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-006471-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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