A solid combination of candor, clever turns of phrase, and clear insight into the English psyche.

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THE POLITICS OF PAIN

POSTWAR ENGLAND AND THE RISE OF NATIONALISM

An award-winning British journalist offers a straightforward view of the rise of English nationalism since World War II.

While Britain shared in the war victory and avoided becoming Germany’s colony, it lost an empire.Meanwhile, former Axis powers and the countries that had been invaded were thriving. All those countries moved on after WWII, but England never did, writes O’Toole (Judging Shaw: The Radicalism of GBS, 2017, etc.), a winner of the Orwell Prize and the European Press Prize. The desperate fear of Europeanization and loss of Englishness called for “Empire 2.0,” built on an Anglosphere incorporating Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the Caribbean. As the concept of political correctness took over, a new scapegoat presented itself in the form of the EU. The threats posed to national health and public housing were invented, causing unreasoned yet omnipresent fear and encouraging vociferous nationalism, which eventually led to the Brexit decision. The grievances it was supposed to address never existed. “The great upheaval of 2016 was never really about Europe,” writes the author. “Those who have caused it turned out to have very little interest in…the EU itself….They had no plan for how the UK would relate to the EU after Brexit, largely because that relationship was not the real focus of their obsessions. They were concerned…with Britain’s relationship to itself and its own self-image. Their desire was to exit a condition of ordinariness which, they had succeeded in convincing themselves, is an unnatural and oppressive imposition on an extraordinary country.” As the author shows, Brexit trivializes the serious and takes the trivial seriously. Brexiteers Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson spout lies and invent enemies and insults, which leads to chaos and long-lasting consequences. “Whatever happens with Brexit,” writes O’Toole in this deft assessment, “this toxic sludge will be in England’s political groundwater for a long time.”

A solid combination of candor, clever turns of phrase, and clear insight into the English psyche.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-645-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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