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

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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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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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