Powerful, troubling essays on the most urgent and significant of subjects. (16 b&w photos)

READ REVIEW

HOW RACE IS LIVED IN AMERICA

PULLING TOGETHER, PULLING APART

Fifteen illuminating feature pieces published last year by the New York Times in their series on race relations, with supplementary dialogues, commentaries, and an opinion poll.

In a sometimes self-congratulatory introduction, Times executive editor Lelyveld describes the intent of the series: “We would simply find real stories of real people—maybe no more than two or three in each narrative—whose lives and circumstances spanned this great and enduring fault line in American life.” And so they did. In venues ranging from public schools to a Seattle ferry, from a pork-processing plant to a Pentecostal church, from Fort Knox to Harlem street corners, the Times reporters dug deeply, their research sometimes lasting as long as a year, and produced a remarkable series that recorded a rich variety of voices. A black man hugs a white woman in an Atlanta church: “Man,” he says, “thirty or forty years ago I would have been hung for just touching this lady.” Although the series focuses principally on black-white relations, there are exceptions. Mirta Ojito writes sensitively about two refugees in Miami, men who had been close friends in their native Cuba but who find themselves now in different worlds because one is light, one dark. Timothy Egan profiles Gary Locke, the Chinese-American governor of Washington. And Tamar Lewin follows three teenage girls, each with a different racial history, and watches their childhood friendship disintegrate as they enter high school’s harsher world. One of the difficulties faced by virtually all the reporters was the reluctance of Americans—especially whites—to talk openly about race. As Dana Canedy comments in an afterword: “But who knows better than a journalist the consequences of unintentionally saying the wrong thing?” Some of the supplementary material—comprising nearly one-fourth of the text—is superfluous, some self-serving, some merely muddling; the most engaging and useful are the retrospective, introspective pieces by the writers and photographers.

Powerful, troubling essays on the most urgent and significant of subjects. (16 b&w photos)

Pub Date: April 17, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6740-X

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more