Martin concludes that things may just work out. Fans of H.G. Wells will enjoy the argument, which is definitely not for...

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THE MEANING OF THE 21ST CENTURY

A VITAL BLUEPRINT FOR ENSURING OUR FUTURE

There’s good news and bad news: We’re destroying the planet, and some of us are going to succeed.

There’s more than a little Buckminster Fullerish optimism—and off-kilter ideas—in Martin’s take on the state of the world, though the reader has to work through some very grim statistics indeed. For one, it takes 1,000 tons of water to make the ton of grain necessary to produce 18 pounds of beef—and around the planet, we’re using 160 billion tons more water each year than is replenished by rainfall. For another, “one-third of the world’s forest areas has disappeared since 1950, and the destruction is accelerating.” To top it off, China and India are becoming well-to-do enough to want a car in every garage, which will exacerbate the fuel crisis. Enter technology, soft (solar panels) and hard (genetic retooling) alike, to the rescue. Martin, a former IBM engineer who lives part-time on a waterless island off Bermuda, marvels that America does not harvest rainwater, though it is easy to do so; he urges that China and other nations move to nuclear power rather than burn more coal, which “would have a devastating effect on the world’s climate”; and the like. Moreover, he opens a window onto some weird-science possibilities, including “electronic brain appendages” that may help us think our way through to a solution of trifles like global warming and mass extinction. In the face of doom, Martin has a positive outlook that sometimes verges on Pollyanna territory, as when he predicts that by 2050, “most of the world will be familiar with its diverse cultures,” so much so that we’ll stop shooting at each other. That, and the prospect that medicine will make Methuselahs of today’s youngsters, may mean yet more people on this busy planet.

Martin concludes that things may just work out. Fans of H.G. Wells will enjoy the argument, which is definitely not for Luddites.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2006

ISBN: 1-57322-323-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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