A galloping history full of interesting characters and significant moments.

“WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU UP TO, MR. PRESIDENT?”

JIMMY CARTER, AMERICA’S “MALAISE,” AND THE SPEECH THAT SHOULD HAVE CHANGED THE COUNTRY

Mattson (Contemporary History/Ohio Univ.; Rebels All!: A Short History of the Conservative Mind in Postwar America, 2008, etc.) presents a bright snapshot of a nation in flux.

The election of squeaky-clean Jimmy Carter in 1976 was in part a reflection of America’s desire to shed the overwhelming feelings of distrust and negativity that surrounded Watergate and Vietnam. In his inaugural address, the president humbly asserted that even if we couldn’t solve all of the country’s problems, at least, “in a spirit of individual sacrifice for the common good, we must simply do our best.” But by the summer of 1979, the country seemed to be imploding in the face of a gas crisis, resulting in long lines at the pump, trucker strikes and violence. The nation’s confidence plummeted and calls for “inspirational and innovative leadership” remained unheeded. Starting on July 4, Carter holed up at Camp David for ten days, emerging with a legendary address—delivered on national television on the evening of July 15—that would both galvanize and deeply cleave the country. Mattson, who takes his title from a July 5 headline in the New York Post, sifts through the varied media coverage of the event to isolate this crucial moment in America’s recognition of itself. In Carter’s speech—largely engineered by speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg—the president warned about a moral crisis affecting the United States, acknowledging the “wounds” of the past and the loss of faith in public institutions. He also enumerated action for the energy crisis and how the country could work together to pull out of it. Yet despite the outpouring of support for the speech, the forces of the GOP’s Moral Majority—especially Ronald Reagan—were gathering strength against Carter. Mattson fully renders the motley array of Carter’s “Georgia Mafia,” along with countless details of this turbulent era in American history.

A galloping history full of interesting characters and significant moments.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59691-521-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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

NIGHT

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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