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A thought-provoking tour of recent history and its considerable discontents.

Of revolutions good and bad, born of intentions good and evil.

In this wide-ranging historical survey, political commentator Zakaria, author of The Post-American World, considers the present era to be “revolutionary in the commonly used sense of the word,” involving fundamental changes marked not necessarily by advances but instead retreats into ideologies once overcome. Donald Trump, in this regard, is “part of a global trend,” the proponent of a politics of resentment against the other, whether nonwhite newcomers or members of the so-called urban elite. Some revolutions have had better angels at their hearts. The establishment of the Dutch Republic, for example, brought with it a “celebration of individual rights…[and] toleration of religious minorities,” along with an entrepreneurial spirit that made Holland the wealthiest nation on the planet. Similarly, the British government supported inventors and technological innovation after the Glorious Revolution, which introduced “parliamentary rule and market capitalism,” giving the nation a decided leg up on more hidebound neighbors. Throughout this intellectually stimulating book, Zakaria asks and answers large questions, such as why the U.S., alone among industrial nations, never developed a socialist movement. (One part of the answer is that the U.S. never experienced feudalism as such, and its ruling class “obscured the strict lines of class conflict that fed socialism.”) Absent socialism, the country instead developed a liberal democracy along the lines of the old Dutch Republic, for better and worse. Zakaria writes, “Liberalism’s great strength throughout history has been to free people from arbitrary constraints. Its great weakness has been the inability to fill the void when the old structures crumble.” That’s about where we are today, with old structures collapsing on every side and no fresh solutions in view—certainly, the author concludes, not from the right wing.

A thought-provoking tour of recent history and its considerable discontents.

Pub Date: March 26, 2024

ISBN: 9780393239232

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

The New York Times columnist serves up a cogent argument for shelving the grudge and sucking it up.

In 1976, Tom Wolfe described the “me decade” as a pit of mindless narcissism. A half century later, Bruni, author of Born Round and other bestselling books, calls for a renaming: “‘Me Turning Point’ would have been more accurate, because the period of time since has been a nonstop me jamboree.” Our present cultural situation, he notes, is marked by constant grievance and endless grasping. The ensuing blame game has its pros. Donald Trump, he notes, “became a victor by playing the victim, and his most impassioned oratory, such as it was, focused not on the good that he could do for others but on the bad supposedly done to him.” Bruni is an unabashed liberal, and while he places most of the worst behavior on the right—he opens with Sean Hannity’s bleating lie that the Biden administration was diverting scarce baby formula from needy Americans to illegal immigrants—he also allows that the left side of the aisle has committed its share of whining. A case in point: the silencing of a professor for showing an image of Mohammed to art students, neither religiously proscribed nor done without ample warning, but complained about by self-appointed student censors. Still, “not all grievances are created equal,” he writes. “There is January 6, 2021, and there is everything else. Attempts by leaders on the right to minimize what happened that day and lump it together with protests on the left are as ludicrous as they are dangerous.” Whether from left or right, Bruni calls for a dose of humility on the part of all: “an amalgam of kindness, openness, and silliness might be an effective solvent for grievance.”

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668016435

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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