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UNTHINKABLE

TRAUMA, TRUTH, AND THE TRIALS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

A brilliant preface, one might guess, to further legal actions against the disgraced former president for his crimes.

The constitutional lawyer and U.S. Representative considers the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and the lawless administration that fomented them.

“How did we end up here, with fascists trashing our Capitol Building and killing people?” asks Raskin, who led the House’s second impeachment proceedings against the former president. His narrative has three strands. The first is personal looking out on the political, recounting the experiences of his father, one of John Kennedy’s “best and brightest,” who left government in opposition to the nuclear arms race. More effective, and saddening, is the second: the suicide of his son, beset by anxiety and depression, who was buried on Jan. 5. The following day brought “strategic violence by extremist elements outside the Capitol…fusing with manipulative tactics inside the Capitol to coerce Vice President Pence and Congress to overthrow the electoral votes in the states and force us into a contingent election.” Raskin makes two related things eminently clear. First, he and other House leaders were prepared for the Republicans’ coercive ploy, albeit surprised that Pence, “despite lots of genuflecting to the disseminators of the Big Lie,” did the right thing. What they were not prepared for, he writes, was an armed mob storming the Capitol and pursuing elected officials through its corridors. For this, Raskin assigns a measure of self-blame, since Alexander Hamilton warned of just such a possibility in the first of the Federalist Papers, and the former president had recruited “thousands of the…‘very fine’ people he had seen marching on the fascist side of the street in 2017 in Charlottesville” to stage his insurrection. Raskin’s detailed account of the second impeachment proceedings goes on at great but not burdensome length, joining Adam Schiff’s Midnight in Washington as a close study in how such matters work.

A brilliant preface, one might guess, to further legal actions against the disgraced former president for his crimes.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-063-20978-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2022

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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THE AGE OF GRIEVANCE

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

The New York Times columnist serves up a cogent argument for shelving the grudge and sucking it up.

In 1976, Tom Wolfe described the “me decade” as a pit of mindless narcissism. A half century later, Bruni, author of Born Round and other bestselling books, calls for a renaming: “‘Me Turning Point’ would have been more accurate, because the period of time since has been a nonstop me jamboree.” Our present cultural situation, he notes, is marked by constant grievance and endless grasping. The ensuing blame game has its pros. Donald Trump, he notes, “became a victor by playing the victim, and his most impassioned oratory, such as it was, focused not on the good that he could do for others but on the bad supposedly done to him.” Bruni is an unabashed liberal, and while he places most of the worst behavior on the right—he opens with Sean Hannity’s bleating lie that the Biden administration was diverting scarce baby formula from needy Americans to illegal immigrants—he also allows that the left side of the aisle has committed its share of whining. A case in point: the silencing of a professor for showing an image of Mohammed to art students, neither religiously proscribed nor done without ample warning, but complained about by self-appointed student censors. Still, “not all grievances are created equal,” he writes. “There is January 6, 2021, and there is everything else. Attempts by leaders on the right to minimize what happened that day and lump it together with protests on the left are as ludicrous as they are dangerous.” Whether from left or right, Bruni calls for a dose of humility on the part of all: “an amalgam of kindness, openness, and silliness might be an effective solvent for grievance.”

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668016435

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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