Critical in understanding today’s immigration issues.

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ONE MIGHTY AND IRRESISTIBLE TIDE

THE EPIC STRUGGLE OVER AMERICAN IMMIGRATION, 1924-1965

A history of the struggle for immigration law reform in 20th-century America.

In this excellent debut, Yang—a deputy national editor at the New York Times who was part of a Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the ties between Donald Trump and Russia—recounts the making of the historic Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which opened the door to Asian, Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern immigrants and “helped define America as a multicultural nation.” Until then, becoming an American was tied to European ancestry, with entry barred to nearly all Asians. In a lively, smoothly flowing narrative based on archival research, the author describes the “racial paranoia” of the 1920s, marked by the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan, the continued popularity of Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race, and the surge in eugenics. Anti-immigration sentiment led to a restrictive 1924 law, which deliberately cut immigration under quotas based on the number of foreign-born Americans in 1890. In ensuing decades, writes the author, restrictions continued, with concerns over communist infiltration by immigrants growing more important than the desire to control the race and nationality of Americans. By the 1950s, a “coalition of the powerful and powerless,” led by Congressman Emanuel Celler and including families of interned Japanese Americans, argued for immigration in the more conducive climate engendered by increasing celebration of the immigrant past, the scholarship of historian Oscar Handlin (The Uprooted), and politicians’ eagerness for urban ethnic votes. By then, even organized labor supported immigration. Throughout her important story, Yang highlights human and political drama, from the histrionics of racists to the political machinations of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson on behalf of the displaced and others. The author also reveals the roles of unsung heroes like White House aide Mike Feldman, who shaped JFK’s message in A Nation of Immigrants. Yang illuminates the little-known, “transformative” 1965 law that spurred demographic changes expected to result in a nonwhite majority in America within a few decades.

Critical in understanding today’s immigration issues.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-63584-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

THE MAN IN THE RED COAT

A fresh, urbane history of the dramatic and melodramatic belle epoque.

When Barnes (The Only Story, 2018, etc.), winner of the Man Booker Prize and many other literary awards, first saw John Singer Sargent’s striking portrait of Dr. Samuel Pozzi—handsome, “virile, yet slender,” dressed in a sumptuous scarlet coat—he was intrigued by a figure he had not yet encountered in his readings about 19th-century France. The wall label revealed that Pozzi was a gynecologist; a magazine article called him “not only the father of French gynecology, but also a confirmed sex addict who routinely attempted to seduce his female patients.” The paradox of healer and exploiter posed an alluring mystery that Barnes was eager to investigate. Pozzi, he discovered, succeeded in his amorous affairs as much as in his acclaimed career. “I have never met a man as seductive as Pozzi,” the arrogant Count Robert de Montesquiou recalled; Pozzi was a “man of rare good sense and rare good taste,” “filled with knowledge and purpose” as well as “grace and charm.” The author’s portrait, as admiring as Sargent’s, depicts a “hospitable, generous” man, “rich by marriage, clubbable, inquisitive, cultured and well travelled,” and brilliant. The cosmopolitan Pozzi, his supercilious friend Montesquiou, and “gentle, whimsical” Edmond de Polignac are central characters in Barnes’ irreverent, gossipy, sparkling history of the belle epoque, “a time of vast wealth for the wealthy, of social power for the aristocracy, of uncontrolled and intricate snobbery, of headlong colonial ambition, of artistic patronage, and of duels whose scale of violence often reflected personal irascibility more than offended honor.” Dueling, writes the author, “was not just the highest form of sport, it also required the highest form of manliness.” Barnes peoples his history with a spirited cast of characters, including Sargent and Whistler, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt (who adored Pozzi), Henry James and Proust, Pozzi’s diarist daughter, Catherine, and unhappy wife, Therese, and scores more.

Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65877-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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