An important examination of a social disaster that seems both politically complex and cruelly senseless.

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DANCING IN THE GLORY OF MONSTERS

THE COLLAPSE OF THE CONGO AND THE GREAT WAR IN AFRICA

Impressively controlled account of the devastating Congo war, which has caused more than 5 million deaths.

Stearns, who in 2008 led a special UN investigation regarding the region’s violence, argues that the war “had no one cause, no clear conceptual essence that can be easily distilled in a couple of paragraphs.” While he agrees that the 1994 Rwandan genocide provided the war’s genesis, he argues that a less-understood factor was the experience of the Banyamulenge, a Tutsi group that emigrated to the Congo long before and suffered persecution ever since. The Congo was first invaded in 1996, when Laurent Kabila deposed Mobutu, but the wider war began in 1998, between disparate coalitions: Kabila’s army and Hutu militias on one side, and the Rwandan military and their allies on another. “The war scuttled all plans for long-term reform and prompted quick fixes that only further debilitated the state,” writes Stearns. The author illuminates the tangled relationships between Kabila, Rwandan Tutsi leader Paul Kagame and many other players as few journalists have. The book’s greatest strength is the eyewitness dialogue; Stearns discusses his encounters with everyone from major military figures to residents of remote villages (he was occasionally suspected of being a CIA spy). He reveals the bravery and suffering of ordinary Africans, while underscoring “how deeply entrenched in society the Congolese crisis had become.” As the chronology moves into the previous decade, his tale becomes increasingly complex and disturbing. Regional proxy wars involving rebel offshoots and tribal militia groups spun out of control, intensifying violence against civilians. Kabila was assassinated in 2001, possibly due to grudges held by angry child soldiers backed by Rwanda, and replaced by his son, who pursued a tenuous peace marred by continued economic stagnation and chaos. By that time, the belligerent nations “had over a dozen rebel proxies or allies battling each other.”

An important examination of a social disaster that seems both politically complex and cruelly senseless.

Pub Date: March 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58648-929-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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