An exciting glimpse into a long-gone era of politics and cultural activity.

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DINNER IN CAMELOT

THE NIGHT AMERICA'S GREATEST SCIENTISTS, WRITERS, AND SCHOLARS PARTIED AT THE KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE

A look at a night that fused politics, art, science, and socialites in the White House.

On April 29, 1962, President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, hosted a dinner that would be remembered as a rare occurrence when many of the era’s great minds were together at the White House. In this historical account, Esposito, who has served in three presidential administrations, unpacks the many conversations, first encounters, and moments of tension, and he explains the high stakes of the event. Starting with a brief description of the political climate at the time, the author explains that the book is intended to be a “snapshot” of “some of the most impressive qualities of this nation: research and thinking at the highest levels, often accomplished by people fleeing from tyranny and turmoil in other countries.” Looking back on a time when those in power capitalized on the possibilities and impact of the intellect only agitates our disbelief for today’s state of affairs, but Esposito’s work is a fascinating entry point to the cultural and academic environments of the 1960s. The list of luminaries is impressive: writers James Baldwin, Robert Frost, Katherine Anne Porter, William Styron, and Pearl S. Buck; scientists Linus Pauling and Glenn T. Seaborg; “peacemakers” Ralph Bunche and Lester Pearson; and others, including Mary Welsh Hemingway. Esposito tells engaging stories of conversations that the president had with Hemingway and the clashing opinions gathered around a table at a time of political upheaval. Ultimately, Esposito presents a book that makes us wonder what the world could have been and that allows us to dream, at least for 200 pages. “Alfred Nobel could not have imagined many of the achievements of the men and women chosen for his awards,” writes the author, “but he certainly would have been impressed by the gathering that President Kennedy assembled on a warm spring night in April 1962.”

An exciting glimpse into a long-gone era of politics and cultural activity.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5126-0012-4

Page Count: 252

Publisher: ForeEdge/Univ. Press of New England

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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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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