Essential for all who follow world events.



Illuminating account of the origins of sectarian violence and the current political shape of the Muslim world.

“What happened to us?” So runs a common refrain in households from Pakistan to Libya. Beirut-born journalist Ghattas (The Secretary: A Journey With Hillary Clinton From Beirut to the Heart of American Power, 2013), now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, locates an answer in three events of the same year, all tightly linked: the overthrow of the shah and the revolution in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the attack on the Grand Mosque of Mecca by Saudi militants. “Nothing has changed the Arab and Muslim world as deeply and fundamentally as the events of 1979,” she writes. Her fluid, fast-moving narrative ably proves the thesis. The Iranian Revolution put into sharp relief the ancient division between Shia and Sunni Islam, an argument at once religious and political, with the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors vying for power with an implacably opposed—though just as conservative—form of Islam. The struggle has played out in many times and places over centuries, but since 1979, it has taken a form more familiar to Westerners. While occasionally Shia and Sunni clerics allied to battle a common enemy, such as the secularist Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the two powers of Iran and Saudi Arabia have more often squared off through proxies in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and particularly Pakistan after the withdrawal of the Soviets from neighboring Afghanistan—a defeat paid for by Saudi money but whose aftermath was swayed by Iran. One constant in the narrative: Wherever Americans have been involved, the aftereffects have been worse, whether attacking Iraq in 1991 and 2003 or attempting to shift the balance of power in the Middle East, with the bumbling of the current administration enabling such things as the savage murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The headlines from the Middle East make a little more sense through the lens Ghattas provides.

Essential for all who follow world events.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-13120-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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...


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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