An excellent country profile and a jarring reminder that Indonesians continue to fight for democratic rights today,...

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INDONESIA

THE LONG OPPRESSION

A fine, grim politicaleconomic history of Indonesia, from the first colonial state to the appointment of Habibie after the Suharto meltdown, from Simons (Libya: The Struggle for Survival, not reviewed).

Fine because Simons is a thorough yet fluent and stirring writer, with an eye for attentiongrabbing material and also a humane, progressive outlook; grim in that the Indonesian people, all 200 million of them, have had a very rude time of it, since the Portuguese first set up camp there in the 16th century right up until today. Simons starts his coverage with a gruesome overview of human-rights abuses—mass killings and mass arrests by the government are simply a part of everyday life in Indonesia—and the economic degradation of the Indonesian citizenry during the period of Suharto’s rule, aided and abetted by American and European political interests. It is impossible for Simons not to simmer with rage as he piles up evidence upon evidence of torture and murder, at the army's hands, of a broad swath of Indonesians: anyone in opposition to Suharto and plenty of innocents as well—a cruel sampling that seemingly touched each of the country’s 300 ethnic groups. Using ample documentation, Simons demonstrates just how culpable the US is for the bloodletting (conservatively estimated at 250,000 dead civilians) that brought Suharto to power, as well as for the arms dealing and the political and economic stranglehold that kept him in power for 30 years. Finally, Simons argues that sheer corruption and political sycophancy brought on the turmoil that capsized the regime, only to have it replaced by Suharto's lieutenant.

An excellent country profile and a jarring reminder that Indonesians continue to fight for democratic rights today, something not lost on the East Timorese, the latest, most public victims of Indonesian aggression.

Pub Date: May 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-22982-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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