Careful and colorful reporting renders this seldom-told part of the Greatest Generation’s story every bit as inspiring as...

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HOW THE G.I. BILL TRANSFORMED THE AMERICAN DREAM

Some 60 years after the G.I. Bill’s passage, Pulitzer Prize–winner Humes (Mean Justice, 1999, etc.) takes a look at one of the most spectacularly successful pieces of legislation in US history.

FDR’s ambitious postwar plan for America, an extension of the New Deal, which sought to guarantee a job, housing, health care and education for all, would likely have proved politically impossible even had he lived. Instead, with painful memories of the WWI Bonus Army’s March on Washington still fresh, and after intense lobbying by the American Legion, Congress enacted a far more modest version intended solely to benefit the millions of returning WWII veterans. The G.I. Bill of Rights certainly did that, by offering vets unemployment compensation and job-placement services, low-interest mortgages requiring no down payment and four fully paid years of college or vocational training. The author effectively gets his arms around this vast, complex subject by centering each of his ten chapters on an individual or small group whose particular story illustrates the bill’s remarkable impact on American arts, science, business and politics. Its largesse benefited relatively few minorities and women, Humes demonstrates, though he also includes success stories like those of Monte Posey, a black vet whose G.I. Bill–funded education led to his employment with the EEOC, and Josette Dermody, whose gunnery-school naval service qualified her for a free education, leading to her career as a schoolteacher. The author is at his best explaining the bill’s unanticipated, transformative effect on American society. It fostered the rise of suburbia, the explosive growth of the university system and the huge expansion of the middle class, all of which reshaped the lives of vets and their boomer children. No run-of-the-mill, pork-barrel legislation has ever had that kind of impact.

Careful and colorful reporting renders this seldom-told part of the Greatest Generation’s story every bit as inspiring as those recounting its survival of the Depression and triumph in war.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-15-100710-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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