It’s not too difficult to make the more preposterous spoutings of the way-out right look ridiculous, but Conason has fun...

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BIG LIES

THE RIGHT-WING PROPAGANDA MACHINE AND HOW IT DISTORTS THE TRUTH

New York Observer and Salon.com columnist Conason (co-author, The Hunting of the President, 2000) flushes the hypocrisy out of conservative rants and jibes at liberals.

Would Americans ever take the bluster of the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters seriously? No way: citizens of the Republic “believe in fairness, equality, opportunity and compassion; they reject social Darwinism and excessive privilege,” writes Conason, who would like to bury once and for all “the buzz of conservative cant [that] creates an illusion of consensus.” Here he takes on the most egregious examples of conservative demagoguery, playing their cards right back at them. Are conservatives more morally rectitudinous than their liberal colleagues? Ask Newt Gingrich, Helen Chenoweth, and the laughably hypocritical Coulter, who once remarked, “Let’s say I go out every night, I meet a guy and have sex with him. Good for me. I’m not married.” Are conservatives great patriots and defenders of the land, while liberals and Democrats cower like curs and dodge the draft? Ask Daniel Inouye, John Kerry, and Max Cleland, and then ask George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, Tom DeLay, and Saxby Chambliss. Who defends the common man? Bush wraps his arms around the nine rescued Quecreek miners while he proposes to slash the Mine Safety and Health Administration budget. Who champions the free market? Not conservatives, avers Conason, with their taste for crony capitalism and “the ethos of privilege, power and entitlement.” The author’s points are all well taken, though he regrettably apes without parody the kind of statistic-slinging that conservatives employ. A few real flinchers (“What conservatives really hate most is a fair fight, which brings out their inner wimp”) don’t mar his best point: conservatism’s “steep descent from the standard of literacy and wit once set by William F. Buckley Jr.” to the impoverished, squalid bleats of Dinesh D’Souza, Laura Ingraham, and Michael Savage.

It’s not too difficult to make the more preposterous spoutings of the way-out right look ridiculous, but Conason has fun hitting his easy targets.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-31560-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2003

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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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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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