A well-written, engrossing examination of racial bias and proposed policy reforms.


A prolific author reflects on racism in America in this collection of essays.

Acclaimed essayist and storyteller Townsend has previously written extensively about his own experiences as a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and as a gay, White Southerner. But it was only in the past few years that he truly came to the “painfully slow realizations” about his own implicit racial biases. With this book, he hopes to provide White readers with a clear perspective as they grapple with painful truths about racism in America. The collection’s nearly 50 essays, many of which originally appeared in publications like LA Progressive, average no more than five pages and are ideally read as “daily reflections” rather than in a single sitting. The volume is organized into four sections. The first part, which is the most compelling, draws on Townsend’s experiences with “racism by proxy,” whereby White people deflect their own complicity in racist systems. This includes the author himself, who found that “protesting at a Black Lives Matter rally revealed more of my biases.” Essays in this section also include arguments against conservative objections to “critical race theory,” White privilege, and “revisionist” histories of America’s Founding Fathers. Subsequent sections address concrete policy solutions to racial inequity, reforms that religious institutions should implement to address their own sordid histories, and a sweeping vision for social justice that includes the homeless, sex workers, and the LGBTQ+ community, among others. Written in a conversational style that often uses stories and personal anecdotes to reveal larger truths, this immensely approachable book skillfully serves its intended audience of White readers grappling with complex questions regarding race, history, and identity. The author’s frequent references to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may be too niche for readers unfamiliar with its idiosyncrasies, but Townsend generally strikes a perfect balance of humor, introspection, and reasoned arguments that will engage even skeptical readers. Perhaps more attention could have been paid to highlighting the scholarship and research of Black authors beyond appendix materials for “additional resources.” Still, overall, this is an effective primer on the persistent legacies of racism in America.

A well-written, engrossing examination of racial bias and proposed policy reforms.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64719-694-3

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Booklocker.com

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.


A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.


Everyone’s favorite avuncular socialist sends up a rousing call to remake the American way of doing business.

“In the twenty-first century we can end the vicious dog-eat-dog economy in which the vast majority struggle to survive,” writes Sanders, “while a handful of billionaires have more wealth than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes.” With that statement, the author updates an argument as old as Marx and Proudhon. In a nice play on words, he condemns “the uber-capitalist system under which we live,” showing how it benefits only the slimmest slice of the few while imposing undue burdens on everyone else. Along the way, Sanders notes that resentment over this inequality was powerful fuel for the disastrous Trump administration, since the Democratic Party thoughtlessly largely abandoned underprivileged voters in favor of “wealthy campaign contributors and the ‘beautiful people.’ ” The author looks squarely at Jeff Bezos, whose company “paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018.” Indeed, writes Sanders, “Bezos is the embodiment of the extreme corporate greed that shapes our times.” Aside from a few passages putting a face to avarice, Sanders lays forth a well-reasoned platform of programs to retool the American economy for greater equity, including investment in education and taking seriously a progressive (in all senses) corporate and personal taxation system to make the rich pay their fair share. In the end, he urges, “We must stop being afraid to call out capitalism and demand fundamental change to a corrupt and rigged system.” One wonders if this firebrand of a manifesto is the opening gambit in still another Sanders run for the presidency. If it is, well, the plutocrats might want to take cover for the duration.

Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593238714

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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