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OUT OF THE DARKNESS

THE GERMANS, 1942-2022

Fascinating insights on how a country of poets, philosophers, and scientists emerged from totalitarianism and genocide.

A magisterial history of Germany over the last 80 years.

A shambles in 1945, Germany now dominates the European Union. Nearly 800 pages on how this happened may seem excessive, but Trentmann, author of Empire of Things and Free Trade Nation, handles his material with aplomb. He emphasizes that the Nazis enjoyed broad support, even among poor German citizens, which withered during the disastrous years after 1942. Some Germans objected to the persecution of Jews within Germany, and many learned from family members serving abroad that the Nazis were committing atrocities. Although the horror of Nazi mass murder stunned the Allies after 1945, Germans were preoccupied with their own problems, including homelessness, starvation, and millions of German refugees expelled from former provinces and Eastern Europe. In the aftermath of World War II, many Germans rejected collective guilt for the war’s destruction, and most were stunned when Konrad Adenauer (chancellor from 1949 to 1963) pushed through massive reparations to Israel and to Jewish refugees. This was effective for reestablishing Germany’s global standing but it also got the country “off the hook of paying reparations for the war itself.” In long, penetrating chapters, the author focuses more on people than politics, examining the economic miracle of the 1950s and ’60s, how younger Germans began confronting their parents’ hypocrisy, and the semidystopia of East Germany, whose collapse opened the way for the united nation’s economic dominance. The explanation that this resulted from German thrift, organization, and hard work does not survive Trentmann’s gimlet eye. In a thoughtful epilogue, the author summarizes the decades of “moral and material regeneration” that produced a resilient people who have fended off recent crises, but he refuses to predict the outcome of other situations, including the disturbing rise in jingoistic, racist, and anti-democratic movements.

Fascinating insights on how a country of poets, philosophers, and scientists emerged from totalitarianism and genocide.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9781524732912

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

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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