Snyder presents logical theories supported by historical studies that question the undue optimism of a rush to an immature...

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FROM VOTING TO VIOLENCE

DEMOCRATIZATION AND NATIONALIST CONFLICT

A scholarly thesis about the perils and difficulties involved in the transition from tyranny to participatory government.

Snyder (Political Science/Columbia) finds a correlation between a collapsing central authority (followed by a quickly emerging but immature democratization process) and the newly aroused ethnic conflicts that have sprung up in recent years. He suggests policies that would make such transitions safer, mainly by not rushing democratic political structures into place before the logical stages of progress have been achieved. Snyder also argues that a controlled media in the early phases of democratization may create national mythmaking, and that this may deter the development of democratic institutions (as was the case in Germany before WWI and WWII). He bases his theories upon the historical experiences of Germany, revolutionary France, Serbia, India, postcolonial Africa, and other nations with weak or nonexistent traditions of democratic government. Some of these nations’ democratic traditions were too weak to offset the powerful forces of ethnic nationalism that, once unleashed, brought violent conflicts against real or perceived enemies (as in Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia, etc.). The refusal of discredited ruling parties to accept electoral defeat, combined with immoderate appeals to the old ethnic groups that were once held in check by a strong central government, will inevitably present a real and profound danger to peoples not used to democracy. In contrast, Snyder argues, civic identity and civic nationalization divided people the least after the fall of communism (as in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine, etc.). He believes that the preconditions of democracy must be in place in order for it to develop sanely—and in order to avoid the ethnic nationalism of hate and civil war that can be driven by manipulating political leaders.

Snyder presents logical theories supported by historical studies that question the undue optimism of a rush to an immature liberal democracy at the tragic cost of bloody strife and loss of freedom. National leaders should take notice.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-393-04881-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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