Not much to surprise politically aware readers, but a solid appeal to small-r republican virtues and an altogether readable...

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AN UNCIVIL WAR

TAKING BACK OUR DEMOCRACY IN AN AGE OF TRUMPIAN DISINFORMATION AND THUNDERDOME POLITICS

A gimlet-eyed look at the mean corridors of power in Washington, with a welcome reminder that this, too, shall—might?—pass.

How did we arrive at our current appalling state of affairs, politically speaking? There are many ingredients in that particular stew, writes Washington Post political blogger Sargent. There’s the free-floating rage that has descended on the land, encouraging what the author calls “thunderdome politics,” the decline of the political conversation into some sort of degenerate blood sport that may be amusing to a few but that drives away others who should be participating. There’s gerrymandering and, with it, vote suppression and what Sargent calls “vote wasting”—and if readers are unclear about how those things work, the author’s explanation is crystal-clear, if alarming. There are the sitting president’s attacks on democratic institutions and his clear autocratic tendencies, all enabled by a weak congressional cohort and a host of willing sycophants. “The GOP Congress,” writes Sargent with nice thunder, “largely remains Trump’s faithful enabler, effectively shielding his corruption from public scrutiny and accountability, and actively aiding and abetting his efforts to undermine the independence of law enforcement in the quest to avoid scrutiny and accountability.” And then there’s the president’s constant lying, a trope that turns up again and again in these pages, as if we should somehow be surprised by it after all this time. The recitation might be tiresome if Sargent had not ventured some counterpunches, including his useful suggestion that, given their supposed status as enemies, journalists and publications should band together in resistance and “redouble their commitment” to core democratic values. Throughout, Sargent reassures readers that we’ve seen worse and lived to tell the tale and that "there are reasons to be optimistic that our institutions are, while battered and black-eyed, largely holding up in the face of Trump’s degradations.”

Not much to surprise politically aware readers, but a solid appeal to small-r republican virtues and an altogether readable polemic.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-269845-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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