From the “dreadful deceit” of race comes a masterful book about its history.

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A DREADFUL DECEIT

THE MYTH OF RACE FROM THE COLONIAL ERA TO OBAMA'S AMERICA

A powerful exploration of an enduring myth that has haunted America over the centuries, from one of our best chroniclers of America’s struggle with racial inequality.

Jones (History and Ideas/Univ. of Texas; Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War, 2008, etc.) claims that race is a construct that has little meaning in biology even if it has had tremendous and deleterious force in historical reality. Instead of a sweeping overview, the author focuses on six biographical sketches that illustrate the pernicious force of the myth of race that has nonetheless manifested in the realities of racism from the Colonial era onward. Thus, a Dutch master’s killing of one of his slaves reveals the increasing tensions in a globalizing world. A fugitive slave in South Carolina embraces the teaching of religion in a Revolutionary era in which men spoke of ideals of freedom while protecting the institution of slavery. A free black businesswoman in post-Revolutionary Rhode Island navigates the treacherous waters of freedom in a world still deeply committed to perpetuating her subservience. A light-skinned black man in the Union Army becomes a loyal Republican in the postwar era and experiences the frustrations and disappointments of white racial solidarity. A Tuskegee Institute graduate founds his own vocational institution for blacks in Jim Crow Mississippi and manages to survive and sometimes thrive in arguably the most oppressive state in an oppressive region. And a black writer and union advocate in Detroit utilizes his relationships in organized labor to bridge racial divides. A graceful writer and natural storyteller, Jones draws meaning from these six tableaux, maintaining the thread of her argument without hammering away at it. She brings the story up to the present by revealing the ways in which the election of Barack Obama has hardly served to mask the ways in which the racial myth has done real harm.

From the “dreadful deceit” of race comes a masterful book about its history.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-465-03670-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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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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