A wide-ranging appeal for a saner way of living.

With a background that spans science, philosophy and humanitarian service, Robinson has the ability to grasp some of the country’s most pressing problems, filter them through observant, objective eyes and make recommendations for ways to set things right. Robinson focuses on America’s materialism as a root cause of malaise, which is hardly new territory, but he expands the palette to include a discussion of our changing workplace, the growth and importance of nonprofits (the “third sector”), our consumptive attitude toward energy and the weakness of political leaders who focus more on raising money for re-election than on serving their constituents. Robinson acknowledges widespread societal unrest but, with a hint of cockeyed optimism, writes that “suffering is not all bad, because it tells us that something is wrong, and if we just listen, it will direct our lives in new ways.” The most intriguing, provocative section of Robinson’s book is the final chapter, in which the author details “ten remedies” that could move the United States forward in a radically new direction. His first remedy, “Sing a New Song: Craft a singable national anthem,” seems a bit trivial, if only because it lobbies for replacing “The Star-Spangled Banner” with a tune that “would have all of America singing not only better, but all together.” This, writes Robinson, might lead to Americans “cooperating on even more things, such as sane driving or going to school meetings.” Subsequent remedies are to be taken more seriously. The author proposes, for example, a “high-exemption flat tax,” changing the gross domestic product (GDP) to the “GDWB” (gross domestic well-being), taxing waste and not work, imposing public funding of political campaigns and living by the rules of a “civil economy” that brings equity to inequality. Robinson writes well and thoughtfully; his impassioned argument has spiritual overtones that can be inspirational at times, even if some of his ideas stretch the boundary of realism. In an era when both the U.S. and the world are witnessing unprecedented upheaval, Robinson’s innovative, thoughtful treatise may be on to something.


Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466338838

Page Count: 254

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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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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