An occasionally too-dense but impressively wide-ranging history demonstrating that the U.S.–China relationship began decades...

THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY AND THE MIDDLE KINGDOM

AMERICA AND CHINA, 1776 TO THE PRESENT

An in-depth look at the historically deep and mutually influential relationship between the United States and China.

Since the American Revolution, the Middle Kingdom (China) and Meiguo, the “Beautiful Country” (America), have enjoyed both a rich exchange of culture and trade and bitter enmity, especially during the early communist era. In this thoroughgoing study that moves from the revolutionary era to the present, former Washington Post foreign correspondent Pomfret (Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China, 2006), who was recently a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Beijing, delves into the historical relations between the two and offers a fresh appraisal of each nation’s contributions to the other. The author asserts that the U.S. has had a significant role in China’s rise, reaching back to when the U.S. provided China an early market for its coveted “china,” tea, and drapery. On the other hand, in China, many Americans, such as John Perkins Cushing and Franklin Roosevelt’s grandfather Warren Delano, made their fortunes in pelts, silks, tea, opium, and other commodities. By the mid-19th century, missionaries had a huge influence on the Chinese, as China represented the big prize in missionary work during the series of Great Awakenings that swept America. Pomfret credits the early missionaries, especially women like Adele Fielde, with bringing Western medicine, education, and law to China and helping to outlaw infanticide and foot binding. The building of the First Transcontinental Railroad required enormous labor, and the Chinese stepped in where Americans would not; however, after the Civil War and the demobilization of soldiers moving West in search of work, the tables turned on the Chinese in the form of pogroms and anti-Chinese immigration legislation. In this highly detailed narrative, Pomfret moves chronologically through these developments, ably fleshing out the characters involved. Regarding recent events, he is not uncritical of China’s cyberspying and aggression in the South China Sea.

An occasionally too-dense but impressively wide-ranging history demonstrating that the U.S.–China relationship began decades before Richard Nixon arrived on the scene.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9250-9

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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