It wasn’t all the same, though: The Republicans had a moderate wing in those days. As with all Zelizer’s books, this is a...




A sort-of-liberal president faces an intransigent, obstructionist Congress: We mean Lyndon Johnson, of course, and the class of 1966.

Zelizer (History and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.; Governing America: The Revival of Political History, 2012, etc.), a lucid writer, doesn’t need to cherry-pick to line up parallels with today. We—and many historians, he writes—tend to think of LBJ’s Great Society initiatives as programs that sailed through the legislature and, as if by magic, bettered lives through various pieces of civil rights reforms and new institutions such as the Job Corps—which “caused more controversy,” Zelizer writes, “than any other program in the [Equal Opportunity Act].” But why did the Job Corps cause such controversy? Because southerners, conservatives and state’s rights stalwarts in Congress opposed any federal program that challenged homegrown traditions such as segregation. “While some southerners grumbled about any distribution of funds to African Americans,” writes the author, “they were happy to see federal money go to the poor whites who were their constituent base.” As Zelizer notes, considerable energy in Washington went to calumny over liberalism and conservative purity and pieties, the right wing having regained considerable ground in the 1950s after the years of exile during the New Deal era. The author writes carefully of how the filibuster was exercised to quash Johnson’s programs by keeping them from coming up for a vote and of the “deadlocked democracy” that resulted. Johnson may have beaten Goldwater in 1964, but the right wing came rushing at him in the election of 1966, and of course, Richard Nixon followed two years later. The resulting opposition was fierce, and Johnson was defeated or stymied at many turns, including in his efforts to implement fair housing regulations, a nonstarter in the South—but, surprisingly, also in places like Chicago and Boston.

It wasn’t all the same, though: The Republicans had a moderate wing in those days. As with all Zelizer’s books, this is a smart, provocative study.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1594204340

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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