An eyebrow-raising report on education that is both enraging and heartbreaking.

THE SCHOOL I DESERVE

SIX YOUNG REFUGEES AND THEIR FIGHT FOR EQUALITY IN AMERICA

Refugees fight for education equality in a Pennsylvania school system.

In a sleek, knowledgeable study, award-winning journalist Napolitano focuses primarily on the experience of a young Sudanese teenager. As the eldest daughter, 18-year-old Khadidja Issa had high hopes and dreams when her family immigrated to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after escaping war-torn Sudan in 2015. Though she was told that her education would begin at the local high school, when she attempted to enroll, she was told she had aged out and to seek employment instead even though her younger siblings were all accepted at their respective grade schools. Other refugees received the same judgment. When Khadidja and other interested teens pressed the Pennsylvania school system further, they were given the option of being deferred to Phoenix Academy, a notoriously authoritarian, juvenile detention–like facility with a nasty reputation as a school for “at-risk youth.” Frightened and fearful of the academy, Khadidja and her fellow refugee students decided to fight the district to afford them the proper education they deserved. Championed by a driven caseworker, an incensed and determined Khadidja, and a pro bono attorney, the ACLU and other litigants challenged the Lancaster school district’s sketchy admissions policies in a class-action case that rocked the region. Napolitano retraces Khadidja’s history with great dexterity, detailing the family’s terror-stricken homeland and their time at a decrepit refugee camp in Chad. Through their struggle, the author paints a broader portrait of the unfortunately common xenophobia that refugees have always faced in the U.S., prejudice that increased considerably during the Trump administration. Backed by research, profiles, court testimonies, and interviews with teachers, refugees, and immigrant advocates, the book calls into question the vital essence of education and why, even in this modern era of accountability, these injustices persist.

An eyebrow-raising report on education that is both enraging and heartbreaking.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8070-2498-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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