A vital guide to American refugee policy, both historically exacting and thoughtful.


A remarkably comprehensive history of American refugee policy since the Vietnam War written by one of its chief architects.

Following the Fall of Saigon in 1975 and the withdrawal of American military forces, a catastrophic humanitarian disaster loomed: the “systematic persecution and inevitable flight of multitudes of Indochinese,” a terrifying “refugee storm.” The predicament proved too dire for the existing agencies in the United States to manage, and, in 1979, Chas Freeman, a Foreign Service officer, issued a momentous report calling for the establishment of a Bureau of Refugee Programs, the “first standalone organization with refugees as its exclusive raison d’être.” Debut author Purcell was instrumental in the establishment of the agency and served as its director for several of its embryonic years. The author, with an extraordinary eye for painstaking detail that is by turns impressive and exhausting, tells the story of the agency’s founding, including the governmental barriers, its intramural “existential threats” and congressional antagonisms,” as well as the problems posed by a “lumbering” U.S. State Department. The Refugee Programs bureau expanded to manage refugee crises all over the globe—the Middle East, the Soviet Union, Latin America, and beyond—always in search of “durable solutions,” which included “voluntary repatriation, regional settlement, and third country resettlement.” With great analytical rigor and candor, Purcell depicts the RP’s missteps as well as its ultimate emergence as a rare bureaucratic organization, both nimble and motivated by a profound sense of moral purpose. “As I have tried to demonstrate, the United States succeeded in this mission by melding humane foreign policy with a can-do, coherent entity that quickly became one of the State Department’s most dynamic organizations,” he writes. The history the author furnishes is a sprawling one and includes an account of the nation’s shifting attitudes toward outsiders, from one of “guarded openness” through “isolation and self-sufficiency” to “global engagement in humanitarian solutions.” Further, he provides a searching discussion of the special challenges posed by the recent Syrian refugee crisis. This is an authoritative guide to the subject, consistently perspicacious and lucid, and includes a foreword by former Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

A vital guide to American refugee policy, both historically exacting and thoughtful.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4808-6881-6

Page Count: 558

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020

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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 value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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