A fascinating, deeply thoughtful and researched study that contributes mightily to the ongoing humanist debate.

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IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO, AND IT NEVER HAPPENED ANYWAY

RUSSIA AND THE COMMUNIST PAST

Sober, trenchant exploration of the need for settling the crimes of the Soviet Union with history.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, yet a proper reckoning over its 73 years of totalitarianism has not yet been achieved, writes Hudson Institute senior fellow Satter (Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State, 2003, etc.). Reflecting his own visits to Russia, the author looks at various facets of Russian society with an eye on the Soviet past—e.g., national monuments, textbooks, the election of Vladimir Putin and rehabilitation of many of Soviet leaders—and he questions why a moral reflection has not penetrated very deeply. Many Russians look back at the Soviet era as a time of solidity and security, when everyone had jobs and were taken care of by the state, and the Soviet Union was perceived as powerful. The election of Putin has reinforced a dangerous tilt toward nostalgia, as one of his first acts when assuming power in 2000 was to restore a plaque commemorating his former KGB boss, Yuri Andropov, the “cold-blooded” autocrat. Even though the crimes of the Soviet regime eventually became known to the people, the dossiers of KGB informers were swiftly closed by law in 1992, and President Yeltsin’s attempts to ban the Communist Party in 1994 were largely foiled. Putin’s proposal to reintroduce the Soviet national anthem “enabled Russians to be proud of the Soviet-era achievements,” but without the essential moral introspection. Throughout Satter’s journeys across Russia, he witnessed the struggle between forces of remembrance and forgetting.

A fascinating, deeply thoughtful and researched study that contributes mightily to the ongoing humanist debate.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-300-11145-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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