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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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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