An accomplished chronicle of the setbacks and successes by a journalist in the trenches.



A committed gay rights journalist thoroughly tracks the president’s hard-won “evolution” in embracing the national LBGT agenda.

Daily Kos columnist Eleveld, who covered President Barack Obama for four years at the Advocate, pursues the reluctant endorsement of the then-senator by the gay community in 2008—they were disappointed by Obama’s definition of marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman—through the triumphant June 2015 decision by the Supreme Court to allow the right of same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states. Obama inherited President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military, although it had proven disastrously controversial. The passage of Proposition 8 in California in November 2008 prohibiting same-sex marriage seemed to underscore for Obama and the entire Democratic leadership that LGBT equality was too hot an issue to take on electorally. Eleveld shows how Obama danced around the issue for years: first in choosing and then replacing the champion of Proposition 8 to give the invocation at his inauguration, then in a tortured repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, first enacted in 1996 and finally gutted in 2013. Eleveld’s chronological story involves the relentless push by activists demanding that the president do the right thing—i.e., to secure full legal rights for gay spouses and to advance LGBT legislation. The successes of AIDS activists in the 1980s served as inspiration for the new direct-action groups, namely ACT UP and GetEQUAL, while momentum was building from the successful film Milk, as well as a well-publicized National Equality March on Washington in October 2009. Capitol Hill hearings with the Pentagon on DADT underscored the policy’s inefficacy, forcing a vote in Congress for repeal in 2010, a huge victory for the gay rights community after “seventeen years of sustained activism.” Throughout the book, the author explores the president’s principles versus political expediency.

An accomplished chronicle of the setbacks and successes by a journalist in the trenches.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-465-07489-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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