If you’re inclined to disbelieve the official record, Brady’s book, less than definitive but more than circumstantial, will...

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ALGER HISS

FRAMED: A NEW LOOK AT THE CASE THAT MADE NIXON FAMOUS

Britain-based American novelist Brady (The Blue Death, 2012, etc.) offers an unusual perspective on Alger Hiss (1904-1996), the aristocrat reduced to traveling salesman.

As a young ballet dancer in New York in 1960, the author was about to marry a much older man (“fortunately nobody in the company cared about the oddities of my private life”) who was the director of the organization that published Consumer Reports. Enter Hiss, a paper salesman after having served several years in prison for perjury; he didn’t land the account, but he found good friends in the couple. All these years later, Brady serves up a nice defense of Hiss, who she believes was not guilty of espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union—but who she also believes was essentially framed by Richard Nixon, then making a name for himself as a staffer on the House Un-American Activities Committee. That allegation is not new—Victor Navasky, among others, has leveled it before—but Brady has a crime writer’s knack for ferreting out multiple lines of investigation, noting irregularities in the material evidence—e.g., a missing typewriter, a mimeograph machine capable of concocting false witness in the wrong hands—and in the documentary record, including files kept by Soviet intelligence. But she also allows that Hiss, the sort of man Nixon would have despised as well-connected, cultured, and effete, walked into some of the traps set by the prosecution, in part because he simply couldn’t believe that anyone would accuse a good public servant of wrongdoing. Brady writes with hard-boiled verve (“Hoover knew all about it. The FBI knew all about it. Freedom of Information reveals many FBI memos worried about it”) that occasionally hardens into ham-fistedness. Readers risk a little level-of-diction whiplash but to a useful end.

If you’re inclined to disbelieve the official record, Brady’s book, less than definitive but more than circumstantial, will confirm your view.

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62872-711-1

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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