An insightful look at a rare cross-species relationship.

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GIANTS OF THE MONSOON FOREST

LIVING AND WORKING WITH ELEPHANTS

The fate of Asian elephants raises important questions for conservationists.

In this illuminating book, geographer Shell (Geography and Urban Studies/Temple Univ.; Transportation and Revolt: Pigeons, Mules, Canals, and the Vanishing Geographies of Subversive Mobility, 2015) reports on his visits to the “remote forestlands between India and Burma,” where he followed the trails of working elephants and their riders, called “mahouts.” Strong and amazingly sure-footed, the trained elephants are able to traverse monsoon-soaked landscapes, ford torrential waters, climb up and down mountains, and lift and carry huge weights, making them essential to the logging industry. Of 40,000-50,000 elephants in South and Southeast Asia—compared with some half a million African elephants—about a third are involved in labor. While most African elephants exist in the wild, the working Asian elephants have been domesticated in a process that the author realizes will disturb many readers: “a captured elephant is usually tied up for months on end in the forest, each leg fastened to a tree,” denied food at first, then rewarded with treats for learning commands—or struck on the back or ear with a metal-tipped instrument. Once trained, elephants work days and are released into the forest at night to forage for food and mate, though their front legs are fettered with a chain to keep them from ranging too far. Most are not eager to escape since cooperating with humans protects them from hunters and poachers. Shell describes in detail elephants’ power, ingenuity, intelligence, and “profound feelings of loyalty and protectiveness” that make them so valued. This relationship between human and elephant, the author suggests, is a result of displacement when encroaching farmland pushed animal and human communities out of their original habitat in the plains. Both migrated to forests, where humans, turning to lumbering as a new livelihood, found elephants indispensable. To animal rights proponents who argue that elephants should live in the wild, Shell points out that with little effective protection, their habitat is vulnerable to deforestation. To those who see only a “picture of domination,” Shell makes a persuasive case that the reality is complicated

An insightful look at a rare cross-species relationship.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-24776-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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