A breath of hope but also a serious call to action: everyone needs to take part.




A trio of acclaimed political scholars and journalists do their best to encourage those bemoaning the path of America’s government.

Dionne (Why the Right Went Wrong, 2016, etc.), Ornstein, and Mann (co-authors: It's Even Worse than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, 2012, etc.) offer a unified voice of sanity in a world gone mad, and their arguments are well-supported by citations of other political writers. On the question of whether Trumpism is a new phenomenon, they point out that the radicalization of the Republican Party has been underway for nearly three decades, and the hatred of the liberal media began with Nixon and Agnew. Now, conservatives have delegitimized the traditional media and empowered the worst and most reckless journalists on the right. To call the writers at Breitbart et al. opinion journalists is wrong; it isn’t journalism if it’s not based on facts. Much of our current situation can be traced to Newt Gingrich’s pernicious influence and the polarization he introduced and proliferated. Centralizing power in the Speaker of the House’s office and the drive for a majority sent a message that ideological commitments would always outweigh evidence. Trumpism is best understood as a protest movement reacting to the long-term changes in our social, economic, religious, and political lives. The authors also note a difference between nationalism, always a power situation, and Trump’s populism, more a style than a philosophical orientation. They trace the various elements of his rise, but there is no single reason why Trump is president. Ultimately, the authors seek to develop a new concept of patriotism, a new sense of civic-mindedness, a new civil society, and a new democracy. Of course, this is all exceedingly difficult in the current climate, but the authors are seasoned guides and provide good jumping-off points for moving beyond the noxious atmosphere of Trumpism.

A breath of hope but also a serious call to action: everyone needs to take part.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-16405-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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