Provides unique insights into a community intent on moving forward.

PROJECT FATHERHOOD

A STORY OF COURAGE AND HEALING IN ONE OF AMERICA'S TOUGHEST COMMUNITIES

A former gang leader and an academic researcher team up to bring about change in a struggling community.

The project emerged from the efforts of “Big Mike” Cummings, a former drug dealer and gang member working to try to keep the peace in Watts, South Los Angeles. Seeking to create a support group for fathers living in the Jordan Downs housing project, Cummings reached out to gang expert and crisis interventionist Leap (Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Drugs, Love, and Redemption, 2012). A self-described “anthropologist with a perpetual identity crisis,” her 20-plus years teaching at UCLA’s School of Public Affairs, along with her reputation for a willingness to get involved at the grass-roots level, made her indispensable for the project. This book combines sociology, tough-love prescriptions, evidence of genuine growth (and the growing pains that come with it) and an eyes-wide-open account of men struggling to be better. Despite years of experience researching gangs from a sociological perspective, Leap discovered that gang culture always has surprises in store. Her concern about a smart, gentle young man living in Jordan Downs proved to be off-base; since he is smart and attends school, the local gangbangers leave him alone. The author explores the mix of admiration and distrust that the men in the group have for Big Mike. She marvels at their gradual shift from using the group time as a sounding board for airing multiple grievances to beginning to collaborate on how to mentor younger men who are trying to make sense of their teenage lives. Repeatedly, the men have been challenged to see things differently while also showing Leap that some of her ideas about what constitutes “better” do not always match up with the hopes of the group.

Provides unique insights into a community intent on moving forward.

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1452-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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