Witty and packed with detail, this is an intercultural shot that should be heard around the world.

NEW KINGS OF THE WORLD

DISPATCHES FROM BOLLYWOOD, DIZI, AND K-POP

A probing look at some of the shifting tides of global culture.

Having borne witness to the throes of political upheaval in her birth country of Pakistan, journalist and novelist Bhutto (The Runaways, 2018, etc.) here explores the local roots and global impact of three contemporary pop-culture game-changers: Bollywood (India), dizi (Turkey), and K-pop (South Korea). Many American readers may be surprised to learn that what’s entertaining much of the rest of the world no longer hails from Hollywood or New York but rather India, Turkey, and South Korea. In this engaging study, the author convincingly asserts that American dominance of popular culture was “facilitated by massive migration to urban areas, the rise of the middle class across the Global South, and increased connectivity”—not to mention “American military might.” Though American pop culture may have resonated with “a Third World elite,” Bhutto argues that “villagers uprooted from their homes and cultures and living in the crowded outskirts of big cities took no comfort in Sex and the City or the twangy music of Britney Spears. Instead, they turned to the products of Indian, Turkish, and Korean pop culture, whose more conservative values better aligned with “this majority’s self-image and aspirations.” Such vast, rapid urbanization, writes the author, marks a “journey from tradition to modernity…accompanied by profound turbulence” and resulting in “a geography without anchors, full of sexual and material deprivations, injustices, and inequalities.” In the wake of such global sea changes, Bhutto investigates where millions today find their cultural moorings and why. Though focusing extensively on Bollywood’s politically rooted narrative transformations and the meteoric rise of its biggest star, Shah Rukh Khan, the author also traces and analyzes the appeal of dizi—sweeping, two-plus–hour soap opera–like TV epics often adapted from Turkish literary classics—and concludes with a fascinating look at K-pop’s highly stylized production and enormous Western influence.

Witty and packed with detail, this is an intercultural shot that should be heard around the world.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73362-370-4

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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