A charming account of how “to pursue opportunity and possibility where others see none.”

CLAY WATER BRICK

FINDING INSPIRATION FROM ENTREPRENEURS WHO DO THE MOST WITH THE LEAST

A memoir about how the Internet can help in the fight against poverty, from the co-founder of Kiva, “the world’s first personal microlending platform.”

Jackley chronicles how her life was transformed in the fall of 2003 when she heard Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, explain how he was enabling the poor in Bangladesh to free themselves from predatory lenders. Yunus' account of his work turned the notion of poverty “on its head,” and his speech provided the author with an exciting new method for thinking about the alleviation of poverty. She understood that the poor are “not weak, helpless people. These were people who were capable, tenacious and resourceful.” Jackley went on to co-found Kiva, which enables people to lend small amounts of money, as little as $25, to businesses in countries like Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. The author describes how she began to investigate and define a plan that would lead toward her goal. Hooking up with Brian Lehnen and his Village Enterprise Fund, she traveled to East Africa to survey the fund's grantees and their cultures. In the aftermath of that trip, Jackley designed Kiva to work with existing microlenders, lend money online, and maintain contact through regular updates. As reflected in its mission statement, the company promised “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” Less than 10 people got the ball rolling, and their requests for loans were filmed and posted online. An email to friends helped raise funds, and the author’s venture quickly grew. Yunus' 2006 Nobel Prize created further interest, which accelerated growth. But it was not all success. In Uganda, they fought against fraudsters and the diversion of funds, and legal and regulatory obstacles doomed her next business, ProFounder. In addition to her own story, Jackley includes folksy business lessons learned from her borrowers—e.g., why the roosters should eat first.

A charming account of how “to pursue opportunity and possibility where others see none.”

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-679-64376-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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