An enjoyable and instructive peek into Iranian culture.

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IRAN FROM CROWN TO TURBANS

Thompson (All the Shah’s Horses, 2016, etc.) chronicles her experience living in Iran in the 1970s under the rule of the last shah of Iran.

In 1972, the author moved to Iran with her husband, Don, an expatriate working for an Iranian aluminum company, while the nation was under the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. She had expertise in horse-show jumping, and as a result, she was effectively compelled to take a job as a trainer for the nation’s Royal Horse Society—a position that she didn’t want but that she couldn’t comfortably turn down when officials presented her with a contract: “Sign it I did. Who could refuse?” The good news was that her new job placed her within Iran’s imperial court, giving her an extraordinarily unfiltered look at the inner workings of the royal family. The author forcefully writes of how the shah’s aggressive reforms were doomed to fail; they were irrationally idealistic, overpromising breakneck results that the nation could never achieve. Also, she notes that Pahlavi was arrogantly out of touch with his people and had no idea how widespread public discontent had become—at least in part because of the lavish lifestyle he enjoyed due to widespread political corruption. Thompson’s incisive analysis also includes an account of the sexual mores of Iran in the 1970s; she places particular emphasis on the role of women, who were liberated in some ways but still subjected to a persistently patriarchal culture. Thompson supplements her sociological observations—which are sweeping but impressively sensitive, in the grand tradition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America—with a synoptic history of Iran, right up to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s religious revolution in 1979. Overall, her memoir is candidly personal, but it manages to transcend autobiographical details, bringing Iran’s struggle to gain entry into the modern world into vivid relief. Her prose is straightforward and lucid throughout, and although she does provide a helpful bibliography for further reading, she avoids unwieldy academic language. Overall, this work will be a valuable resource for readers seeking a demystification of Iran.

An enjoyable and instructive peek into Iranian culture.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984551-09-2

Page Count: 390

Publisher: XlibrisUS

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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