Fine reading for community activists seeking to expand the social infrastructure of their own home places.

READ REVIEW

PALACES FOR THE PEOPLE

HOW SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE CAN HELP FIGHT INEQUALITY, POLARIZATION, AND THE DECLINE OF CIVIC LIFE

Want to cut down on crime? Install a community garden, increase public library funding, and start talking to your neighbors.

It’s been a long time since the American engineering community gave a higher grade than a D to the country’s infrastructure. By Klinenberg’s (Sociology/New York Univ.; Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, 2012, etc.) account, there are other benefits to infrastructure besides simply getting us where we want to go safely and allowing our toilets to flush. What he calls “social infrastructure,” for instance, provides us with physical spaces where we can gather to solve problems and simply be together: Churches, libraries, public swimming pools, and the like are important centers of community-building and social cohesion. It is telling that public enterprises such as libraries and low-income child care are in a state of collapse thanks to our apparent dislike for paying taxes to support them; private enterprises that provide “third spaces,” neither home nor work but somewhere in between, are doing better and “help produce the material foundations for social life.” As the author notes, scholars such as Jane Jacobs long ago pointed out the importance of private enterprises such as grocery stores, barbershops, and cafes in the lives of neighborhoods and communities; where areas lack such amenities, crime and alienation run high. Yet the public goods do the heavy lifting. Those child care centers foster "bonds of friendship and mutual support” among parents, again building community in ways that only they can do. Klinenberg examines new manifestations of social infrastructure enterprises—e.g., farmers markets and organizations such as Growing Home, a clearinghouse for community gardens that “foster interactions within and across generations, resulting in less social isolation as well as more cohesion, civic participation, and neighborhood attachment.”

Fine reading for community activists seeking to expand the social infrastructure of their own home places.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6116-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more