This sobering book should be read—and studied—by policymakers and citizens; pair with Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in...




An award-winning historian challenges the notion that the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident had few consequences, arguing that the “public health disaster” killed at least 35,000 to 150,000 people and left most adults and children in affected areas sick with cancer, anemia, and other illnesses.

In this explosive, exquisitely researched account, Brown (Environmental and Nuclear History/Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore County; Plutopia: Nuclear Families in Atomic Cities and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, 2013, etc.) draws on four years of fieldwork in Soviet and other archives—27 total, some previously unvisited—and in towns and farms in contaminated territories to provide a powerful story of the devastating health and environmental effects of radioactive fallout in areas outside the 30-kilometer Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. “The accounts of unspecific, widespread, and chronic illness, reproductive problems, and acute increases in cancer resound like a lament across the area of Chernobyl fallout,” she writes. The official death toll from the exploding nuclear power plant was 54, but there was never any long-term study of health consequences, including the effects of exposure to radiation over time. After interviewing workers, evacuees, and scientists; visiting affected factories, swamp ecosystems, and abandoned towns; and examining transcripts of secret Politburo meetings and other documents, the author concludes that Soviet officials hid the radiation’s impact through “secrecy, censorship, counterespionage, and fabricated news.” In the face of Soviet “half-truths and bald-faced lies,” international scientists nodded agreeably. Like the Soviets, Western officials blamed stress—not radiation—for health issues, out of fear of Chernobyl’s implications for other radiation exposures and possible lawsuits. Brown’s prose is sometimes technical but largely accessible and even turns poetic when she describes changed lives. She offers horrifying descriptions of the processing of radioactive meat and other foods for shipment to large cities and towns and of the continuing sale abroad of contaminated berries.

This sobering book should be read—and studied—by policymakers and citizens; pair with Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl to spark a renewed debate over nuclear power.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-65251-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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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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