A timely history of successful government intervention.

TO END A PLAGUE

AMERICA'S FIGHT TO DEFEAT AIDS IN AFRICA

A chronicle of one of America’s bold health initiatives.

With 25 years of experience as an AIDS activist, journalist Bass makes a vivid book debut with a detailed recounting of a prevention program that effectively stemmed AIDS in Africa. Drawing on medical reports, scientific papers, and interviews with activists, AIDS sufferers and their families, and health care providers and administrators (Deborah Birx, among them), the author examines the impact of a plan put forth by George W. Bush in 2003: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Astonishingly to Bass, the scientifically sound, rigorously researched plan—informed by experts including physicians Anthony Fauci and Mark Dybul—was met with skepticism both within Washington and among AIDS activists, who treated it “as a false promise and a political ploy.” As Bass watched the fate of the plan play out, she saw that “the structure of the program designed to wage war on the virus had engendered a war for resources” among a plethora of agencies whose acronyms sometimes overwhelm the narrative. The rivalries, she notes, continued “as long as the program did, defining and undermining this singular, purpose-built effort to control a modern plague.” Although in the U.S., “it was a workaround for the enduring ambivalence about foreign aid that made efforts by turns competitive, ineffective, and fragmented,” in Uganda—where Bass had been a Fulbright scholar in 2004-2005 and returned for many extended visits—PEPFAR became “a solution to the problem of keeping people with HIV alive when their own government did not care to try.” The plan had effectively “married research with implementation, relied on local partners, moved fast,” and responded to Ugandans’ urgent needs. PEPFAR, Bass asserts, proved to be “an unprecedented achievement in promoting public health instead of public death” and an important lesson “in how the US government can organize and implement a long-term plague war.”

A timely history of successful government intervention.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6243-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

PIRATE ENLIGHTENMENT, OR THE REAL LIBERTALIA

The final book from the longtime activist anthropologist.

In a lively display of up-to-date anthropology, Graeber (1961-2020) offers a behind-the-scenes view of how a skilled researcher extracts knowledge from the slimmest evidence about a long-ago multiethnic society composed of pirates and settled members of existing communities. In this posthumous book, the author turns to 17th- and 18th-century Madagascar and examines hard-to-credit sources to tease out some plausible facts about the creation and early life of a distinctive Indian Ocean society, some of whose Malagasy descendants (“the Zana-Malata”) are alive today. Exhibiting his characteristic politically tinged sympathies, Graeber describes the pirates who plied the seas and settled on Madagascar as an ethno-racially integrated proletariat “spearheading the development of new forms of democratic governance.” He also argues that many of the pirates and others displayed European Enlightenment ideas even though they inhabited “a very unlikely home for Enlightenment political experiments.” Malagasies were “Madagascar’s most stubbornly egalitarian peoples,” and, as the author shows, women played significant roles in the society, which reflected Jewish, Muslin, Ismaili, and Gnostic origins as well as native Malagasy and Christian ones. All of this information gives Graeber the chance to wonder, in his most provocative conjecture, whether Enlightenment ideals might have emerged as much beyond Western lands as within them. His argument that pirates, women traders, and community leaders in early 18th-century Madagascar were “global political actors in the fullest sense of the term” is overstated, but even with such excesses taken into account, the text is a tour de force of anthropological scholarship and an important addition to Malagasy history. It’s also a work written with a pleasingly light touch. The principal audience will be anthropologists, but those who love pirate lore or who seek evidence that mixed populations were long capable of establishing proto-democratic societies will also find enlightenment in these pages.

Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-374-61019-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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