A well-rendered but disheartening tale of a life’s work documenting the “human and animal detritus left behind in the...




A veteran journalist recalls his travels through the world’s dwindling wild places.

Linden (The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations, 2006, etc.) has spent 30 years chasing environmental stories for Time, National Geographic and the New York Times on the remote frontiers of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, where traditional cultures and modernity meet. “I never imagined that my visits to the ragged edge of the world were a farewell tour,” he writes. Amid tiny glimmers of hope, he chronicles the worldwide loss of ecosystems and cultures. Thousands of indigenous tribes manage to live on in the face of an onslaught by consumer society, but their cultures wither and die. In Polynesia, for instance, modernity has wiped out ways of life that tied Polynesians to the sea and one another. In many societies, indigenous shamans can no longer compete with the technological magic of the consumer society. Perhaps saddest of all, writes Linden, tribes that decide they do not enjoy living in the market economy cannot return to their former life in the wildlands because the forests, animals and rituals that sustained them have disappeared. Each chapter focuses on a specific place, including New Guinea, where modernity arrived after World War II; war- and epidemic-ridden sub-Saharan Africa; and Antarctica, where global warming is unfreezing time and harming creatures. The author notes that modern tourists begin appreciating some cultures just before they disappear—e.g., the continuing flocking of New Age seekers to Machu Picchu, which supposedly sits atop a giant crystal. One day, writes Linden, humankind may wake up to the disastrous consequences of capitalism’s “skewered incentives” to reap short-term profits. In the meantime, some form of traditional culture endures in distant places where tribes hang on and the local ecology retains continuity with the past.

A well-rendered but disheartening tale of a life’s work documenting the “human and animal detritus left behind in the aftermath of the advancing armies of the consumer society.”

Pub Date: March 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02251-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


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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