Exemplary journalism and a powerful argument for not putting soldiers in harm’s way unless we’re sure we know why.

EAGLE DOWN

THE LAST SPECIAL FORCES FIGHTING THE FOREVER WAR

The former Kabul bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal delivers a searing, dispiriting portrait of America’s elite warriors in the field.

If the title echoes Black Hawk Down, it’s for good reason: One of the many tragic episodes in Donati’s potent report from the front—not that there’s one in guerrilla war, of course—has at its center a downed helicopter, besieged Special Forces soldiers, and all the miscommunications and misunderstandings that the fog of war enshrouds. A terrible death anchors that episode, but death is the business at hand. So it is with the Green Berets whom Donati profiles, most of them professional soldiers of a serious, even scholarly bent skilled in various martial disciplines. Nowhere is that more true than Afghanistan, where, over the years covered here, regular soldiers were withdrawn, leaving it to Special Forces to fight the Taliban in places like the Helmand region, whose Sangin district British troops had nicknamed Sangingrad, “after the World War II siege by German troops of Stalingrad, where thousands perished during the Nazi invasion of Russia.” It’s a place specially designed to draw out foreign blood but also that of the native people. Donati recounts the accidental bombing of a hospital, killing civilians and leading to stern letters of reprimand in personnel files, as well as the story of a dedicated soldier who stepped on a mine, lost his legs, and would up in a bureaucratic nightmare of a kind at which the military excels: “No one could tell him how to get new orders generated and restart his medical coverage. He had to wheel himself from office to office, asking questions.” Donati’s on-the-ground account—and it’s clear that she put herself in constant danger to tell the soldiers’ stories even as American officials dithered about how to deploy those troops—is sometimes as hallucinatory as Dispatches and as taut and well written as Mark Bowden’s now-classic book.

Exemplary journalism and a powerful argument for not putting soldiers in harm’s way unless we’re sure we know why.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6257-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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