SYRIAN REQUIEM

THE CIVIL WAR AND ITS AFTERMATH

A valuable book for students of geopolitics and the ever turbulent Middle East.

Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Rabinovich and national-security expert Valensi home in on the intractable problem of a Syria mired in civil war.

“Authoritative figures of the casualties…are unavailable,” write the authors, “but most sources agree that by the middle of 2019, close to half a million people had died in Syria, and close to 12 million Syrians had become refugees or…internally displaced persons.” In their cogent analysis, the authors trace the nation’s internal conflict to the early 1960s, when the Ba’th Party assumed rule. Crippled from the start by former colonizer France’s “divide and rule” strategy of drawing on minority populations to staff the military, the Ba’th Party was founded by “two Damascene intellectuals” whose program “offered a secular vision of Arab nationalism combined with a social democratic ideology.” This naturally put the regime athwart of the growing insurgent movement in recent years, but it also hampered the growth of the private sector. As of 2008, the authors write, even with a growing GNP, “almost 70 percent of Syrian employees earned less than one hundred dollars a month.” A decade ago, conditions were ripe for the civil war that followed, which featured proxy elements, the U.S. supporting rebels, Russia and Iran supporting the government. By 2014, the country had suffered a vast brain drain as its artists and intellectuals fled. The government, meanwhile, suffered a blow with the assassination of Iranian general and strategist Qasem Soleimani, killed by an American drone in January 2020. Yet American policy in the country, the authors rightly note, has been inconsistent thanks to Donald Trump’s “persistent desire to disengage from Syria.” This has favored the existing government and changed the face of the region’s political makeup, “shaped by the new roles of Iran and Turkey, and by America’s withdrawal and Russia’s resurgence.”

A valuable book for students of geopolitics and the ever turbulent Middle East.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-691-19331-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

ENOUGH

A mostly compelling account of one woman’s struggles within Trumpworld.

An insider’s account of the rampant misconduct within the Trump administration, including the tumult surrounding the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

Hutchinson, who served as an assistant to Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, gained national prominence when she testified to the House Select Committee, providing possibly the most damaging portrait of Trump’s erratic behavior to date. In her hotly anticipated memoir, the author traces the challenges and triumphs of her upbringing in New Jersey and the work (including a stint as an intern with Sen. Ted Cruz) that led her to coveted White House internships and eventual positions in the Office of Legislative Affairs and with Meadows. While the book offers few big reveals beyond her testimony (many details leaked before publication), her behind-the-scenes account of the chaotic Trump administration is intermittently insightful. Her initial portrait of Trump is less critical than those written by other former staffers, as the author gauges how his actions were seemingly stirred more by vanity and fear of appearing weak, rather than pure malevolency. For example, she recalls how he attended an event without a mask because he didn’t want to smear his face bronzer. Hutchinson also provides fairly nuanced portraits of Meadows and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who, along with Trump, eventually turned against her. She shares far more negative assessments about others in Trump’s orbit, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and adviser Rudy Giuliani, recounting how Giuliani groped her backstage during Trump’s Jan. 6 speech. The narrative lags after the author leaves the White House, but the story intensifies as she’s faced with subpoenas to testify and is forced to undergo deep soul-searching before choosing to sever ties with Trump and provide the incriminating information that could help take him down.

A mostly compelling account of one woman’s struggles within Trumpworld.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781668028285

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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