A book that won’t change minds but that will give anti-Trumpers plenty of grist for the mill.

AUTHORITARIAN NIGHTMARE

TRUMP AND HIS FOLLOWERS

In which the characters of the sitting president and his followers are weighed and found seriously wanting.

“Anyone who has had a serious ‘discussion’ with a Trump supporter may have noticed that facts and logic bounce off right off them.” So write Dean—yes, that Dean, still going strong nearly half a century after Watergate—and Altemeyer, a Canadian psychologist who developed the RWA [right-wing authoritarianism] Scale. That RWA test, among other measures, helps explain a great deal about Trump’s supporters, whose numbers might seem to be dwindling but whose convictions grow ever stronger. Those who score high on the RWA instrument are revealed to believe in a welter of confusing and contradictory matters, have considerable difficulty in sorting fact from fiction, and have no problem with double standards. “Take their ready acceptance of Trump’s labeling Hillary Clinton as Crooked Hillary" when Trump's actions regarding charities in New York state "was so illegal that the state has banned him from ever operating a charity in New York again. Thus, there is no doubt about Trump being Crooked Donald, who has single-handedly given charity a bad name." That doesn’t faze the pro-Trump crowd, who give him a free pass precisely because, according to the test, they are fearful that their world is disintegrating and are in need of a strongman to protect them from a host of imagined evils. By the authors' account, Trump is nothing but a chain of personality flaws (“His driveway has not reached the main road for a long, long time”) that he learned at the feet of his master, Roy Cohn, and secondarily from Richard Nixon, such lessons as “if you have a vulnerability, tell everybody your opponent reeks of it.” Whether Trump gains a second term or not, the authors conclude, the strong authoritarian base that exists in the country guarantees continued polarization for years to come.

A book that won’t change minds but that will give anti-Trumpers plenty of grist for the mill.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61219-905-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

Not an easy read but an essential one.

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?

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more