With sharp research and insights, Sokol follows this blithe and self-congratulatory legacy through the election of President...




Sokol (History/Univ. of New Hampshire; There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975, 2006) exposes the troubled truth about the North’s racial integration.

The Northern states could point to the Southern states’ ongoing practices of Jim Crow legislation, white supremacist violence and suppression of voting rights with righteous disgust, but the author shows how, in unsubtle and pernicious ways, the North, too, was “at war with itself.” Sokol tracks the tireless work of a handful of reformers who helped uncover the hypocrisy of the Northeast’s practices in politics, housing and even sports. In 1939, the school superintendent of Springfield, Massachusetts, John Granrud, attempted to pioneer revolutionary hiring practices to incorporate a “crazy quilt of races, religions and ethnicities” and celebrate the plethora of differences within the student body. The school’s integration gained national notoriety and even a Hollywood film (It Happened in Springfield)—until a Democratic backlash shut it down in 1945. Claiming that there was no discrimination, the new superintendent asked, “why enact, or continue, a program to root it out?” The facts within ethnically divided neighborhoods like Brooklyn belied this smug attitude. The arrival of Jackie Robinson challenged Dodgers fans to “step away from the old prejudices,” not just in embracing the black ballplayer, but in the experience of integration in the stands at Ebbets Field. “Segregated housing,” Sokol asserts, “was the scourge of the North”—from the Robinson family’s travails at finding a welcoming community in Connecticut to the deeply divisive struggle to integrate Northeastern schools from 1957 onward. The elections of enormously influential African-Americans like Massachusetts Sen. Edward Brooke and New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm offered new champions to equality, while Connecticut Sen. Abraham Ribicoff challenged his colleagues to hold the mirror up to look inward and acknowledge racism’s intractable existence.

With sharp research and insights, Sokol follows this blithe and self-congratulatory legacy through the election of President Barack Obama.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0465022267

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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