A useful book that reveals what might be considered a secret shame but that is hiding in plain sight.

INVISIBLE AMERICANS

THE TRAGIC COST OF CHILD POVERTY

An economics analyst proposes a simple solution to the complex problem of child poverty—give those children cash.

In the acknowledgements, Madrick (Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World, 2014, etc.), a contributor to the New York Review of Books and the Nation, thanks his publisher for supporting his work in general and “this book in particular, whose subject is dense and not very accessible.” His approach, heavy on statistics and critique of policy in programs known by acronyms, seems intended more to influence policymakers, government officials, and liberal activists rather than tug at the heartstrings of the public at large. Yet he builds a strong case that child poverty in America is “moral tragedy,” with as many as 25% of American children suffering from such deprivation. He systematically traces the cycle, beginning with prenatal care (or lack thereof) and continuing through food and housing insecurities, economically segregated schools with substandard resources, and poor employment prospects. If our economic policies are keeping such a large percentage of children in such a cycle of poverty, why does society permit it? Because we don’t agree on the severity of the problem or where the poverty line should be set. We don’t agree on whose fault it is, often blaming the poor for bad habits, little initiative, and a tendency to have children they can’t support. In other words, the “culture of poverty,” which Madrick attacks forcefully, particularly in regard to the black community. “Ideological battles over the origins of poverty,” writes the author, “are not an abstraction—they have consequences for the poor, for policy and for a way that Americans understand who is to blame for poverty.” We have Social Security to help keep older citizens out of poverty; we need something similar for the young. “I believe,” writes Madrick, “we should provide monthly, substantial, and unconditional cash allowances for all children through disbursements to their families.”

A useful book that reveals what might be considered a secret shame but that is hiding in plain sight.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-45-149418-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM

Known for her often contentious perspectives, New York Times opinion writer Weiss battles societal Jewish intolerance through lucid prose and a linear playbook of remedies.

While she was vividly aware of anti-Semitism throughout her life, the reality of the problem hit home when an active shooter stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue where her family regularly met for morning services and where she became a bat mitzvah years earlier. The massacre that ensued there further spurred her outrage and passionate activism. She writes that European Jews face a three-pronged threat in contemporary society, where physical, moral, and political fears of mounting violence are putting their general safety in jeopardy. She believes that Americans live in an era when “the lunatic fringe has gone mainstream” and Jews have been forced to become “a people apart.” With palpable frustration, she adroitly assesses the origins of anti-Semitism and how its prevalence is increasing through more discreet portals such as internet self-radicalization. Furthermore, the erosion of civility and tolerance and the demonization of minorities continue via the “casual racism” of political figures like Donald Trump. Following densely political discourses on Zionism and radical Islam, the author offers a list of bullet-point solutions focused on using behavioral and personal action items—individual accountability, active involvement, building community, loving neighbors, etc.—to help stem the tide of anti-Semitism. Weiss sounds a clarion call to Jewish readers who share her growing angst as well as non-Jewish Americans who wish to arm themselves with the knowledge and intellectual tools to combat marginalization and defuse and disavow trends of dehumanizing behavior. “Call it out,” she writes. “Especially when it’s hard.” At the core of the text is the author’s concern for the health and safety of American citizens, and she encourages anyone “who loves freedom and seeks to protect it” to join with her in vigorous activism.

A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-13605-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

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