THE HONORED DEAD

A STORY OF FRIENDSHIP, MURDER, AND THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH IN THE ARAB WORLD

An improbable pursuit of a strange murder in Casablanca segues into a moving study of cross-cultural friendship.

Journalist Braude (The New Iraq, 2003) procured an “embed-style access” to a police precinct in Casablanca to observe the interaction between an authoritarian state and its people—or, “how a government and its people conspire to become a society.” The Judiciary Police, an FBI-like agency, were extraordinarily open to the author’s observations and questions, proud of their low crime rate compared to the United States, although bedeviled by a pesky sect of Islamist militants. Braude was tolerated largely because of his rare background: An American born to an Iraqi Jewish mother, he speaks Arabic fluently (also Hebrew) with an Iraqi accent thanks to a close youthful friendship with an Iraqi called Ali, from whom he had become estranged due to an unfortunate run-in with the federal police some years before. (Braude, who worked for five years with the FBI on Islamist terrorist cases, gradually reveals the sad, incredible story.) The particular murder that fascinated the author during this period involved a 41-year-old homeless Berber man, Ibrahim Dey, who was beaten to death in a warehouse where he had been sleeping for five years—ostensibly for theft. Dey was well liked and considered a majdub, or someone who brings fortune to others, and his best friend, Muhammad Bari, whom Braude befriended, swore to vindicate the suspicious murder. Like a good murder mystery, the plot thickens as details flesh out, including the activities in the precinct, the family of the victim, the history of Berber and Jewish oppression in the Arab world, the ideological struggle over Islam and the close friendship once enjoyed between Dey and Bari, which reminded the author of his own with Ali. Moreover, the book is infused with the author’s sense of loss and tenderness for his mother’s native land and language, rendering this one of the most affecting, sympathetic accounts of Arab culture in recent memory. Despite the murky title, this is a beautifully composed, deeply felt journey inside Morocco.

 

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-52703-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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