Written in academic prose, this book, which shows Jefferson to be a man of his times, brilliant yet flawed, will appeal...




Just how revolutionary and radical was Thomas Jefferson?

Veritas Radio Network's Constitution Hour host Gutzman (History/Western Connecticut State Univ.; James Madison and the Making of America, 2012, etc.) begins his provocative book with a rather bold statement: “Jefferson’s influence on American political history outstrips that of any other figure.” He admits Franklin Roosevelt rivaled Jefferson, but Washington and Lincoln? Gutzman lays out his case in five footnote-laden chapters that sometimes drag. Federalism receives most of the author’s attention, taking up a third of the book. He admires Jefferson’s long-standing defense of states’ rights as they relate to their relationship with the central government. He features lots of back and forth arguing with Jefferson scholars over matters of interpretation, and he feels they’ve especially “distorted history” in arguing that federalism was really not that “important” to Jefferson. Jefferson “considered liberty of conscience to be the basis of all other freedom.” While establishing the University of Virginia—another subject Gutzman examines in detail—Jefferson was adamant that it should be secular and that all students should be able to explore their religious inquiries without restrictions—except blacks, who were not allowed to attend. Gutzman admits Jefferson “erred” in his views on race; Jefferson thought blacks “inferior,” even disliked them and, although unjust, refused to condemn slavery. He advocated colonization; they could be “created equal” as long as they lived somewhere else. He was all for shipping them overseas, perhaps Liberia. He was adverse to “racial mixture” but, sadly, not adverse to having children with Sally Hemings, one of his female slaves. As for Native Americans, Jefferson believed they were violent, the equals of whites, and needed educating. His policies encouraging taking their land for agricultural use—Gutzman notes that Lewis and Clark helped with that—set the stage for Andrew Jackson's removal policy.

Written in academic prose, this book, which shows Jefferson to be a man of his times, brilliant yet flawed, will appeal primarily to scholars.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-01080-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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