A useful attempt to understand a still-unfolding story.

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THE ARAB UPRISINGS

WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW

A solid primer on the Arab Spring.

While stressing that it is “still too early to gain the distance from events that historians need to render judgments,” Gelvin (Middle Eastern History/UCLA; The Modern Middle East, 2004, etc.) offers insights into the popular uprisings that have swept Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries since late 2010. His background on the Arab world will certainly help non-experts better understand the region. Most of the population consists of Arab-speaking Muslims. While lacking homogeneity, they share a sense of history; live in poor political, economic and social conditions; get news from a vastly expanded Arab-language media, such as the satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera; and generally oppose U.S. activities in the region, especially the invasion of Iraq and support for Israel. States, which control oil and other resources, are the main economic actors. During the Cold War, the U.S. supported strong, authoritarian regimes to hasten regional economic development and prevent the rise of communism. Using a Q&A format (the book is an installment in the publisher’s What Everyone Needs to Know series), Gelvin traces the various uprisings, beginning with Tunisia, noting that no one could have predicted the popular protests; that they had no single cause; and that the “true heroes of the uprisings” were the participants, who acted on their own and put their lives on the line. He writes it is not possible to pinpoint where the initial demands for democracy and human rights came from. “Certainly, the claim that the uprisings confirm the historical inevitability of democratic transformation worldwide reflects little more than wishful thinking,” he writes. Although Western media often called early protests a “Twitter Revolution,” social media only played a role. The region’s monarchs uniformly responded to the protests by distributing benefits (cash bonuses, jobs) and making promises for the future. It remains to be seen, writes Gelvin, whether the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt will mean the end of autocracy.

A useful attempt to understand a still-unfolding story.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-19-989177-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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