Imagine P.J. O’Rourke describing the effects of chewing tobacco rather than doing drugs.

CONSERVATIZE ME

HOW I TRIED TO BECOME A RIGHTY WITH THE HELP OF RICHARD NIXON, SEAN HANNITY, TOBY KEITH, AND BEEF JERKY

Can an NPR talk-show host from lefty-liberal Seattle convert himself to conservatism by confining his news sources to the Washington Times and Fox News, his music to country and his interviews to habitués of rodeos and shooting ranges?

Probably not, but that’s the conceit behind Moe’s memoir of nine months spent trying to understand conservative America. The premise works well enough, though some readers may draw the line at the author performing “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” during “Country Karaoke Night” in a blue-collar bar. Much of the book consists of interviews with conservatives of various sorts, from the editors of the Weekly Standard and National Review to Michael Medved and the mayor of Rexburg, Idaho. The mayor’s pious good sense and devotion to effective government help crystallize Moe’s understanding that there is a distinction between conservatism and the Republican Party. Indeed, the only “conservatives” to whom he warms not at all are the pudgy participants at a conference of college Republicans, all of them political fixers in embryo. (The author likes some Republicans better than others: He contrasts the fatuity of the Reagan Museum with the sober substance of the Nixon Library and Birthplace.) The book does not produce insights so much as pop-culture commentary on its march to the conclusion that conservatives are people, too. Aside from a denunciation of Toby Keith for commercially exploiting patriotic country music in a time of war, the commentary is good-natured and amusing. Sometimes the humor is unintentional, as when the author’s encyclopedic knowledge of indie and alternative music is employed to explain country music, without further clarification for non-residents of Planet Seattle. Funniest of all are the interspersed film reviews, which assign a numerical score for the effectiveness of a movie’s conservative message.

Imagine P.J. O’Rourke describing the effects of chewing tobacco rather than doing drugs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-085401-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 18

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

more