Critical in understanding today’s immigration issues.

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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