Provocative, essential reading for students of California history.

STEALING HOME

LOS ANGELES, THE DODGERS, AND THE LIVES CAUGHT IN BETWEEN

A well-known tale of racial injustice given a fresh look by sportswriter Nusbaum.

The construction of Dodger Stadium is an epic well known in the history of Southern California. The author digs deep to find stories from the canyon where the stadium was built, a place made by Mexican and Mexican American families who were covenanted out of other neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The early residents could climb the hill above the canyon and see the skyline of a growing metropolis whose new City Hall appeared “like an arrow pointing upwards to the infinite possibilities of Southern California—or perhaps like a giant middle finger aimed directly at [them].” When the 101, a multilane major highway, was built, the isolation was complete—until, when the Brooklyn Dodgers moved across the country, the three neighborhoods of Chavez Ravine were deemed an ideal spot for a stadium. Nusbaum charts the course of what happened next, as neighbors banded together and activists set about agitating for their rights, all to no avail, and with jail sentences for some. One aspect of the story is that, a decade before the Dodgers arrived, the area was slated for modernist public housing, but the project was shelved in a Cold War era in which such utopian enterprises smacked of communism. Instead, capitalism won out: Deeds were bought and sold, properties condemned, construction companies and developers enriched. A nice twist, as Nusbaum writes toward the end of his illuminating narrative, is that barely anything seemed to go right as the stadium was going up. With the passage of time, the communities of Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop faded from memory. “Baseball may have mystical powers, but it cannot erase the past,” writes the author near the end. “It cannot redeem us.” That’s just right, and Nusbaum does good work by reminding readers of what was lost in the name of municipal bragging rights.

Provocative, essential reading for students of California history.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-4221-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

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?

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more