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WORM

A CUBAN AMERICAN ODYSSEY

A sharply observed document of totalitarianism and its discontents—this gifted artist in particular.

A renowned graphic artist and painter writes of his early life in Cuba and later life in U.S. exile, finding parallels in both countries, “where men with guns made the decisions.”

Born in 1971, Rodriguez came of age in the Cuban countryside, where, owing to an entrepreneurially minded father, the family sometimes had a little more food than their neighbors. Both parents knew how to navigate the system: “Mamá would never mention Fidel Castro’s name. When referring to him, she would quietly rub her cheek to indicate Castro’s beard, so that no passing neighbors would hear her speaking of El Comandante.” It was their children’s being spirited off to school to be indoctrinated, among other things, that convinced the parents to abandon their homeland and join the Marielito boatlift of 1980. They arrived in the U.S. and rebuilt their lives, with Rodriguez working odd jobs until moving to New York to attend art school. Rodriguez emerged there as a critic of Donald Trump’s presidency so well known as to draw down denunciation from the man himself. To that, the author has a simple reply: “To an immigrant like me, America is a dream, a land of freedom and opportunity where one can work and express oneself without fear of violence or political persecution. For me, January 6, 2021, shattered the dream.” A few scenes, such as those depicting time spent in a holding camp before boarding their boat to freedom, might have been condensed in the interest of heightening the drama. Nonetheless, the well-rendered graphic story is plenty dramatic on its own, and it’s significant not just for its portrayal of Castro’s Cuba but also for offering evidence that the Cuban American exile community is not politically monolithic.

A sharply observed document of totalitarianism and its discontents—this gifted artist in particular.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781250753977

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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