Multifaceted discussions regarding the challenges faced by African-Americans during the Obama presidency.



Anthology of interviews with notable black scholars, focused on the prospects for social justice in the age of Obama.

The book is a companion volume to the Pacifica Radio Archives, which has long documented “voices from the black freedom movement.” Journalist Griffith, who has been researching and presenting this material on BBC since 2007, describes the archive as containing “stories of African American struggle and triumph…for those who wish to listen and learn from the people who defined a movement,” including Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. Here she presents seven interviews with community organizers, legal scholars, academics and activists, attempting to capture a moment in which Obama’s presidency arguably obscures ongoing racial inequities, exacerbated by a weak economy and continued discrimination by law enforcement. Griffith provides historical context in her conversation with Dr. Vincent Harding, a theologian best known for co-authoring Dr. King’s famous antiwar speech of 1967; Harding observes that the civil-rights movement was more accurately concerned with “the expansion and deepening of democracy in America.” Legal scholar Michelle Alexander offers disturbing thoughts regarding policies of mass incarceration and the “War on Drugs” that visit disproportionate (and hypocritical) harm on black communities. Dr. Julianne Malveaux probes the racial aspects of the ongoing recession, grimly noting that “[Obama’s] employment legislation is just pathetic, frankly…they tiptoed around issues of black unemployment.” Ramona Africa, one of two survivors of the notorious 1985 bombing of the radical MOVE compound in Philadelphia, provides a unique perspective on police brutality toward African-Americans. Other notable participants include Temple University journalism professor Linn Washington Jr. and one-time Obama appointee Van Jones. Griffith concludes by wondering if progressives have been “lulled into a satisfied slumber” by Obama’s election, and whether Dr. King’s ambitions have been betrayed by this complacency.

Multifaceted discussions regarding the challenges faced by African-Americans during the Obama presidency. 

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-87286-546-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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