From Whittier, Alaska, to Williston, North Dakota, to Palm Coast, Florida, these varied essays offer compelling snapshots of...

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CITY BY CITY

DISPATCHES FROM THE AMERICAN METROPOLIS

In these 37 singular essays, some reading like research papers, others as personal as memoirs, n+1 editor Gessen (All the Sad Young Literary Men, 2008, etc.) and Harvard graduate student Squibb find in certain American cities the crucible of enormous change since the financial meltdown of 2008.

In “Lessons of the Arkansas,” Ben Merriman wisely considers the hugely troubling ramifications of diverting rivers such as the mighty Arkansas for the irrigation of arid land. Dan Albert’s “The Highway and the City” finds the interstate structure both a product of wrongheaded urban renewal and a “transcendent” step in technological progress. In “The Office and the City,” Nikil Saval, author of Cubed: The Secret History of the Workplace (2014), looks at how the once-ubiquitous office towers of New York, San Francisco, and other metropolises face conversion rather than obsolescence. Two of the chapters are interviews: historian Gar Alperovitz explores how Cleveland has become a model for worker-owned, multistakeholder institutions that anchor the community and distribute wealth more equally. City Life/Vida Urbana organizer and activist Steve Meacham shares his methods of helping advocate for tenants’ rights in Boston against foreclosures. Some of the more amusing essays are highly quirky reminiscences of living or growing up in certain cities—e.g., Annie Wyman’s ferocious “Dallas and the Park Cities,” which chronicles her move to this “dark heart of Republican power” as a child and feeling appalled by its racist tones; and Ryann Liebenthal’s “The Making of Local Boise,” which finds a charm in the “little anthills of aesthetic and cultural kinship” popping up in his hometown. Other contributors include Michelle Tea, Jenny Hendrix, and James Pogue.

From Whittier, Alaska, to Williston, North Dakota, to Palm Coast, Florida, these varied essays offer compelling snapshots of how Americans live, move, and work.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-86547-831-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Faber & Faber/n +1 Foundation/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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