Gripping from start to finish, with reflections on the price that soldiers pay for their commanders’ war agendas.

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BLOOD IN THE WATER

HOW THE US AND ISRAEL CONSPIRED TO AMBUSH THE USS LIBERTY

Historical research leads to some unsettling assertions about a violent incident shrouded in secrecy for over 50 years.

The attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, left 34 dead and 174 wounded, along with myriad unresolved questions even after Israel admitted responsibility, claiming it had acted in error. This book represents a massive undertaking whereby Mellen (English Emerita/Temple Univ.; Faustian Bargains, 2016, etc.) systematically and persuasively dismantles the narratives espoused for decades by reviewing official documents, evaluating publications, and conducting personal interviews. Disturbingly, the author’s solid research indicates that the United States and Israel collaborated in planning, executing, and covering up this operation in order to implicate Egypt, bomb Cairo, and precipitate Gamal Abdel Nasser’s downfall. The author astutely points out that it wouldn’t be the first time the American government resorted to such tactics, citing the Maine in 1898 and the Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War. She also contextualizes the Liberty incident amid “the hothouse of 1967,” signaling the Cold War’s paranoia and brinksmanship together with the Vietnam War escalation and oil supply concerns. To Mellen’s credit, her clear writing style and organizational abilities allow even readers unfamiliar with the events of the time to become engrossed in technical details, political intrigue, the military chain of command, and personal stories. Against all odds, through many sailors’ concerted efforts, the Liberty managed to stay afloat despite a torpedo hit and send an SOS signal. The author darkly claims: “The survival of the ship was unanticipated by those in highest authority.” The details of the attack are both gruesome and necessary, underscoring the sacrifice by the Liberty crew. The heroes include Dr. Richard Kiepfer, himself severely injured, who “remained on his feet for the next twenty-eight hours” and “performed surgeries and blood transfusions through the night,” and electronics technician Terence Halbardier, who was wounded while scrambling under fire across the deck to connect a cable that allowed the SOS call to go out. Indeed, one of the more sobering scenarios is that American planes “equipped with nuclear warheads” were seven minutes away from bombing Cairo, perhaps escalating the conflict to the brink of World War III, but were called off when the ship’s distress signal was heard. Extensive endnotes contain many intriguing tidbits, such as the moment when Mellen wonders whether military personnel would be more forthcoming with a different interviewer. Referring to a key witness who read communication transcripts in real time during the incident, she admits: “Still, he was uncomfortable with sharing his experience with a civilian author (female) of an unknown political persuasion.” Finally, she deftly examines questionable decisions made by authorities in the immediate aftermath of the attack and in the present day as survivors struggle with mistreatment at the hands of the military bureaucracy and American government. At the end of this impressive work, the author boldly lists those she holds responsible for the strike, including familiar names like Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert McNamara, Cyrus Vance, John S. McCain, and Moshe Dayan.

Gripping from start to finish, with reflections on the price that soldiers pay for their commanders’ war agendas.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63388-464-9

Page Count: 446

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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