A pitch-perfect balance of nuanced reflection and dire warning.

STRONGMAN

THE RISE OF FIVE DICTATORS AND THE FALL OF DEMOCRACY

History’s warnings reverberate in this gripping read about five dictatorial strongmen.

This complex yet accessible title examines the lives and deeds of Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein. This is no dry textbook; rather, the author presents deep personal and historical context with an eye toward explaining depravity. By reading these accounts, readers come to better understand how such rulers rise to power—and how we might act to avoid future evils. This book does not minimize atrocities or humanize tyrants, nor does it shy away from uncomfortable questions about ordinary citizens’ complicity. Instead readers are asked to ponder how contemporary democracies actually create the conditions for such individuals to come to power. The chilling final chapter asks, “Never Again?” as Davis emphasizes the need for vigilance as the democratic protections many contemporary citizens of democratic nations embrace are not inviolable. Timeline graphics put the individual cases into larger historical context, and key terms are explained in sophisticated depth. The author draws from an extensive lineup of thinkers and writers, from Primo Levi, Thucydides, Madeleine Albright, and Lord Acton to George Orwell and more. The book concludes with an impressive bibliography and endnotes. This powerful overview, enhanced with photographs, hinges on the idea that autocratic power is only possible with the complicity of ordinary others and that those who resist are the rare heroes of a terrifyingly timely story.

A pitch-perfect balance of nuanced reflection and dire warning. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20564-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Small but mighty necessary reading.

THE NEW QUEER CONSCIENCE

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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