This account succeeds as a moving tribute to Temple students rather than as a key contribution to Jonestown history.




Two former teachers at a school attended by Peoples Temple members try to make sense of the Jonestown tragedy in this debut book.

In 1976, Opportunity II, a new alternative high school in San Francisco, got an unexpected influx of students as 120 teenagers from a church called Peoples Temple signed up for classes. The newcomers “looked more like well-scrubbed country kids than hardened urban teens,” the authors recall. Just over two years later, many of those students would perish in the mass suicide at Jonestown, the Guyana encampment where the Temple’s charismatic but paranoid founder, Jim Jones, had retreated with his followers. Bebelaar and Cabral have now delivered a book that functions more as an homage to their former students than a window into what drove them and so many others to perish in the South American jungle: “We would like to think that the teenagers we knew...can help make Jonestown more than...a tale often reduced to the dismissive phrase coined from the tragedy: ‘To drink the Kool-Aid.’ ” The Temple teens at Opportunity II included three of Jones’ sons—Stephan, Jimmy, and Tim—and while the pupils tended to keep to themselves, some of them contributed poems to Bebelaar’s creative writing class. “I do not like anybody to see / me talk to myself / because I might say / the wrong thing,” one student wrote eerily. There were glimpses of the darkness surrounding the church—Cabral noticed one girl “had bruises on both arms and a blackening eye”—but neither author was prepared for the controversy that erupted after New West Magazine reported abuse at the Temple in 1977. Bebelaar “couldn’t help thinking she and the other teachers should have asked more questions.” Much of the book’s latter part is an account of the church’s spiral into madness that relies heavily on secondary sources like Julia Scheeres’ A Thousand Lives without adding much insight into the motivations and events that led to the tragedy. Still, the volume offers some haunting details. Bebelaar caught up with Stephan Jones, who was at a basketball tournament when the mass suicide occurred. “I believe that some of us had the means to stop the terrible things that happened,” he told her, “but we didn’t get it done.”

This account succeeds as a moving tribute to Temple students rather than as a key contribution to Jonestown history.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9987096-8-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sugartown Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2018

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.


“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

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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?