A must-read for anyone interested in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian drama.

A STREET DIVIDED

STORIES FROM JERUSALEM'S ALLEY OF GOD

The revealing story of a street “at the epicenter of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.”

In his first book, Wall Street Journal national security reporter Nissenbaum explores the history of Assael Street in the mixed Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor. Jewish on one side and Muslim on the other, Assael Street was once the literal dividing line between Israel and Jordan. Now, it is no longer divided by barbed wire as it once was, but it is fiercely divided by religion, culture, and politics. The author does an admirable job examining the complexities of this microcosm of the conflict, remaining basically neutral and unbiased. Indeed, he manages to point out both the shared tragedy and the shared absurdity of the larger situation personified by Assael Street. Humorous stories pepper the book—e.g., a United Nations–led cease-fire to search for a dying woman’s dentures, lost in no man’s land by accident in 1956, or an international court deciding the fate of wandering livestock. Nissenbaum is not afraid to point out simple obstinacy and intractability among both individuals and entire governing bodies. Yet this does not change or lessen the real tragedy of people who were once neighbors being made into strangers through a wider geopolitical drama. The author chronicles a number of households that have lived, sometimes for decades, with the real-life consequences of the Arab-Israeli conflict, leading to strained relationships with those who are literally closest to them. The book is not entirely pessimistic, however, in that Nissenbaum also chronicles those working for positive change in the neighborhood and those who build constructive neighborhood relations one personal relationship at a time. Yet the reality of unending conflict pervades the book: “If there is to be an Israeli state living alongside a Palestinian one, the line has to be drawn somewhere,” he writes. That somewhere is Assael Street.

A must-read for anyone interested in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-07294-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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