Required reading for activists and for those wondering where things went wrong for America’s working people.

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ROOTS OF STEEL

BOOM AND BUST IN AN AMERICAN MILL TOWN

Affecting portrait of a decaying loop on the Rust Belt.

Science journalist Rudacille (The Riddle of Gender: Science, Activism, and Transgender Rights, 2005, etc.) is a native of Dundalk, Md., a town near Baltimore and, like that larger city, a place of mixed ethnicities and decidedly mixed fortunes. It is now ground zero for what President Obama noted in his campaign about the bitterness felt by blue-collar, and especially white blue-collar, America of late, a remark for which Obama was much criticized. “But he was only saying what anyone who comes from a place like Dundalk knows full well is true,” writes the author. “Over the past thirty years, its residents have watched a hard-won prosperity and security slip away.” Rudacille provides close descriptions of that hard winning, an effort born of union organizing and endless negotiation against improbable odds. Some of the champions of that effort were unabashed socialists and communists. Recalls one worker, “When I was a kid, I overheard a lot of conversations about workers’ rights…A lot of it was in Italian.” Italians and Eastern Europeans bonded with longtime Marylanders to work against the color line—not necessarily out of any strong affection for African-American workers in those days, Rudacille notes, but rather because of the difficulty of trying to organize parallel segregated unions. Some workers prospered; others became ill from lungs full of asbestos and veins full of industrial toxins; but all made a community that thrived until corporate executives, seeking a way to reduce costs while innovating, took the jobs overseas, often to plants built in the aftermath of war against our former enemies. In the end, Rudacille has delivered a book that would do Studs Terkel proud, partaking of his oral-historical approach to the past at turns, imbued with his pro-labor spirit throughout.

Required reading for activists and for those wondering where things went wrong for America’s working people.

Pub Date: March 23, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-375-42368-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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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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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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