An erudite group effort encapsulating a long, laborious struggle that continues today.

FEMINISM UNFINISHED

A SHORT, SURPRISING HISTORY OF AMERICAN WOMEN’S MOVEMENTS

Three distinguished academics offer a competent, compact history of the women’s liberation movement.

Hoping to “set the record straight” in challenging former perceptions of American women’s activism, Cobble (History and Labor Studies/Rutgers Univ.; Sex of Class: Women Transforming American Labor, 2007, etc.), Gordon (History and the Humanities/New York Univ.; Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, 2009, etc.) and Henry (Women’s Studies/Grinnell Coll.; Not My Mother’s Sister: Generational Conflict and Third-Wave Feminism, 2004) condense a century’s worth of groundbreaking feminist lobbying into three densely packed sections. Cobble charts feminism’s early post-suffrage years from the 1920s to the 1960s, with a particular focus on the fiercely passionate social justice “gender pioneers” of the labor movement who fought for economic equality and civil rights. Gordon vibrantly chronicles the women’s liberation period through the “sex equality” decades of the 1960s to the 1980s, during which self-defined sexuality was championed alongside politically productive feminists’ organizations and sex-positive efforts. In the final section, Henry follows the movement’s progression through the millennial generation of women (and men) who employed the freedoms their predecessors fought so stridently for. Rebirthing the cause and continuing the good fight for gender equality, she writes, their efforts helped neutralize the stigma of LGBT visibility, “girlie feminism” and challenges to female reproductive rights in the 1990s. The authors’ comprehensive appreciation counters popular held myths by documenting the losses along with the progress, dispelling the imagery of the feminist as a “humorless, sexless reformer,” and, perhaps most profoundly, arguing against the belief that feminism is a marginal, minority-focused fight for equality when, to Cobble, Gordon, Henry and supporters nationwide, “it is a cause for everyone.” All three perspectives converge into a dramatic historical statement on the past and present condition of women’s rights and its power and omnipresence.

An erudite group effort encapsulating a long, laborious struggle that continues today.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-87140-676-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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