EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE

ANTIFASCISM AND THE LEFT IN THE AGE OF FASCISM

The thesis is unremarkable, but Fronczak’s study of the Spanish Civil War has considerable merit.

Scholarly examination of the relationship between anti-fascism and fascism, each contingent on the other.

Princeton historian Fronczak points out that our consensus view of what the left constitutes largely hinges on convergences of the 1930s. “Antifascism was the central idea pulling the left together in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War,” he writes, “and then pushing leftists to go to Spain to fight together there.” There had been fascist movements in the decade before, including the 400 black shirts who marched in New York City in 1927, and opposition to them. While the face of fascism has changed—globalized, Fronczak writes, in its encounters with populist and nationalist movements around the world—its existence has served constantly to reenergize the left. It is hardly a novel idea that fascism is an overworked term defined variously from individual points of view, but the better part of this book is the author’s study of Spain as crucible. Fronczak corrects some points of Cold War ideology—e.g., that the Popular Front was a creation of the Comintern; it dates, he argues, to an earlier coalition on the French-German border “determined to win regional autonomy for the Alsatian people,” some of whose members were renegade Communists going against the party line. The author also highlights figures who have fallen into obscurity, such as the Black American fighter Oliver Law, who, born on a ranch in Texas, became a militant anti-fascist commander in Spain, where, despite official claims of equality, he was often tested on account of his race. “Right, left, fascism, and antifascism—these have all become once more words that people find worth fighting over,” Fronczak notes in closing. His book is a touch arid, but if nothing else, one hopes that it will send readers to wider accounts of the Spanish Civil War—by, for instance, Hugh Thomas or Antony Beevor—to deepen their knowledge.

The thesis is unremarkable, but Fronczak’s study of the Spanish Civil War has considerable merit.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-300-25117-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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