A thoughtful consideration of Washington’s wisdom that couldn’t be timelier.

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WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL

THE FOUNDING FATHER'S WARNING TO FUTURE GENERATIONS

Why George Washington’s last message proves apposite to our own time.

After two terms as America’s first president, Washington bid farewell by publishing in a daily newspaper a long, heartfelt address, warning his countrymen about the forces that could threaten democracy. Editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast and former speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani, Avlon (Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America, 2010, etc.) analyzes that address and other of Washington’s writings to create a vivid portrait of the struggles that marked the nation’s early years. Washington had been a reluctant first president, but his experiences as an army commander served him well as a peacetime strategist facing dissension among the prickly, squabbling members of his administration. Admired as a general, he was “pilloried” as president and saw the rise of opposing political parties, something the Founding Fathers had not foreseen. “There was an idealistic assumption among the founders,” writes the author, “that elected representatives would reason together as individuals.” Washington clearly saw the perils that the nation still faces: he believed that “partisan impulses needed to be restrained by a wise and vigilant citizenry” or risk the rise of demagogues. Liberal education was vital to an enlightened population who could participate responsibly in civic matters. He worried that self-interest and regional, rather than national, identity could lead to disunity. Citizens needed to recognize the benefits of a central government that provided “equal laws and equal protection.” That protection extended to religion, ensuring pluralism so that no sect would “degenerate into a political faction.” As for foreign policy, Washington advised independence but not isolationism. Avlon engagingly traces the afterlife of the address, showing how subsequent presidents cherry-picked ideas consistent with their own political views. He argues persuasively that the document deserves the serious reading that he offers. “Armed with a sense of perspective,” he writes, “we can take some comfort that our domestic divisions too shall pass.”

A thoughtful consideration of Washington’s wisdom that couldn’t be timelier.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4646-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS

The debut book from “one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard.”

In addition to delivering memorable portraits of undocumented immigrants residing precariously on Staten Island and in Miami, Cleveland, Flint, and New Haven, Cornejo Villavicencio, now enrolled in the American Studies doctorate program at Yale, shares her own Ecuadorian family story (she came to the U.S. at age 5) and her anger at the exploitation of hardworking immigrants in the U.S. Because the author fully comprehends the perils of undocumented immigrants speaking to journalist, she wisely built trust slowly with her subjects. Her own undocumented status helped the cause, as did her Spanish fluency. Still, she protects those who talked to her by changing their names and other personal information. Consequently, readers must trust implicitly that the author doesn’t invent or embellish. But as she notes, “this book is not a traditional nonfiction book….I took notes by hand during interviews and after the book was finished, I destroyed those notes.” Recounting her travels to the sites where undocumented women, men, and children struggle to live above the poverty line, she reports her findings in compelling, often heart-wrenching vignettes. Cornejo Villavicencio clearly shows how employers often cheat day laborers out of hard-earned wages, and policymakers and law enforcement agents exist primarily to harm rather than assist immigrants who look and speak differently. Often, cruelty arrives not only in economic terms, but also via verbal slurs and even violence. Throughout the narrative, the author explores her own psychological struggles, including her relationships with her parents, who are considered “illegal” in the nation where they have worked hard and tried to become model residents. In some of the most deeply revealing passages, Cornejo Villavicencio chronicles her struggles reconciling her desire to help undocumented children with the knowledge that she does not want "kids of my own." Ultimately, the author’s candor about herself removes worries about the credibility of her stories.

A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59268-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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