Banco’s reportage vividly shows the human toll that deceit and subterfuge have taken on a land so rich in natural resources.

PIPE DREAMS

THE PLUNDERING OF IRAQ’S OIL WEALTH

Star-Ledger investigative reporter Banco reveals the complicated conspiracies keeping the richness of Iraqi oil from trickling down to the general populace.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and removal of Saddam Hussein was accompanied by promises that the Iraqi people would share the wealth from the country’s oil. It is no fault of this investigative reporter, who has plenty of experience and contacts in the Middle East, that readers are likely to finish this short book—which reads like a long magazine article—feeling more confused than ever. This is the way that big oil wants it, writes Banco, who shares WikiLeaks documents, tales of familial and tribal infighting, schemes of multinational empire-building, and charges of American perfidy to show that rather than sharing the wealth from oil, the displaced Iraqi citizenry is generally poorer than it was before. As has often been charged, the American invasion in the wake of 9/11 was something of a shell game, using Osama bin Laden as a pretext for the oil ties with which the Bush administration was inextricably bound. The reporting “focuses on what happened behind the scenes between the Kurdish government and international oil companies—negotiations, payouts and kickbacks that exacerbated the plundering of the region’s oil.” Needless to say, these were deals made behind metaphorical closed doors, as the nation has been torn by internal warfare while also fighting terrorism. The only simple aspect of this story is that the people had very high hopes that were dashed. Everything else is complicated, for, as the author suggests, “one explanation for government failure in Iraqi Kurdistan is that government itself isn’t what it seems to be. Here, politics, business and family are inseparable.” The plots thicken under the big foot of multinationals such as ExxonMobil, “the largest non-state oil company on the planet, with about $240 billion in annual revenues.”

Banco’s reportage vividly shows the human toll that deceit and subterfuge have taken on a land so rich in natural resources.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9977229-4-9

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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