A provocative, lucid, and urgent contribution to the study of race in America.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

READ REVIEW

STONY THE ROAD

RECONSTRUCTION, WHITE SUPREMACY, AND THE RISE OF JIM CROW

The noted African-American literary scholar and critic examines the tangled, troubled years between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.

From the outset, writes Gates (African and African-American Research/Harvard Univ.; 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro, 2017, etc.), there was, among whites, a profound difference between being opposed to slavery and advocating equality for emancipated black people. Alexis de Tocqueville, he notes, warned of the latter that since “they cannot become the equals of the whites, they will speedily show themselves as enemies.” Meanwhile, countless enemies emerged among the white population, from unreconstructed Southerners to the architects of Jim Crow laws. Gates argues, with Frederick Douglass, that freedom without the vote is meaningless, and those laws did all that they could to suppress suffrage. Meanwhile, there was the hope that a “New Negro” would emerge to change affairs once and for all—a trope, Gates notes, that emerged anew with the election of Barack Obama, a metaphor “first coined as a complex defensive mechanism that black people employed to fight back against racial segregation.” Other mechanisms were born of necessity even as white culture found endless ways to appropriate from black culture while never accepting its authors. In a highly timely moment, Gates discusses the history of blackface, which was put to work in depictions of lascivious, predatory black men advancing the “thought that the ultimate fantasy of black males was to rape white women”—a thought that soon became an “obsession.” Reconstruction failed for many reasons, and the ethos that followed it was no improvement: The period under consideration, as the author recounts, marked the rise of “scientific” racism, of “Sambo” images that were “intended to naturalize the visual image of the black person as subhuman,” reinforcing the separate-and-unequal premises of Jim Crow itself. Gates suggests that it’s possible to consider the entire history of America after the Civil War as “a long Reconstruction locked in combat with an equally long Redemption,” one that’s playing out even today.

A provocative, lucid, and urgent contribution to the study of race in America.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55953-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more