A carefully written investigation full of villains—and the occasional hero.

Fast-paced though complex account of ethnic collision among the fisheries of Gulf Coast Texas.

“This is a book about a racist backlash against refugees fleeing a ruinous war,” writes Johnson, author of The Feather Thief, to open a narrative that pits Vietnamese newcomers to East Texas against an array of enemies, most dangerously the KKK. When the Vietnamese arrived, they found few friends among the White fishermen of Galveston Bay, who were happy to sell those newcomers junk boats and machinery at exorbitant prices, as with one who “grinned at a reporter while describing the time he sold a boat to a Vietnamese shrimper for $25,000, even though he knew it was decrepit.” Meanwhile, Johnson notes, a Gallup poll soon after the fall of Saigon “showed only 36 percent of Americans believed refugees fleeing the calamitous war of their country’s own making deserved resettlement,” lending weight to the hostility on a homefront suddenly populated by a wave of 130,000 Vietnamese. One Anglo fisherman bought into the widely circulated lie that among the refugees were Viet Cong agents bent on destroying America, and he began terrorizing two young brothers in “Gook City,” one of whom killed their tormentor. Amazingly, he was acquitted by an all-White jury on the grounds of self-defense, which only lent energy to KKK members from far afield who came to chase the Vietnamese out. In another kind of radicalism, a Taiwanese manufacturer that had been dumping toxic chemicals into the bay, poisoning the fishery, met local resistance that included both Anglos and Vietnamese. In the end, the KKK dwindled away, but “the White supremacist movement charged ahead.” Even though most shrimp consumed here is imported, Johnson observes that the domestic crop is largely brought to market by Vietnamese fishermen. His fascinating and disturbing narrative is a winning mix of biography, true crime, and ecological study.

A carefully written investigation full of villains—and the occasional hero.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-984880-12-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022


An overdue upending of art historical discourse.

An indispensable primer on the history of art, with an exclusive focus on women.

Prominent 19th-century art critic John Ruskin once proclaimed, “the woman’s intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision,” and traces of this misguided and malignant sentiment can still be found over a century later in art institutions around the world. A 2019 study found that “in the collections of eighteen major US art museums, 87 percent of artworks were by men, and 85 percent by white artists.” There’s a lot to be mad about, but London-based art historian Hessel nimbly pivots that energy into a constructive, revelatory project. This book is not a mere rebuttal to the aforementioned discrimination; deftly researched, the text reveals an alternate history of centuries of artistic movements. With palpable excitement, the author shifts the focus from widely known male participants to the unsung female players of the time. Art aficionados will delight in Hessel’s sleight of hand and marvel at her wide, inclusive reach. Spanning from Baroque art to the present day, she effortlessly removes “the clamour of men” and, in a series of short biographical profiles, shapes a historical arc that still feels grounded even without a familiar male presence. Art history must “reset,” Hessel writes, and she positions her book as an important first step in that reconfiguration. While the author progresses mostly movement by movement, her broader tangents are particularly profound. One of many highlights is a generous overview of queer artists of the Weimar era. Hessel is occasionally uneven with how much content she allots each artist, and some perfunctory profiles feel like the result of trying to highlight as many names as possible. Nonetheless, even the shortest gloss provides enough intrigue to be a successful introduction to an artist who might otherwise be forgotten.

An overdue upending of art historical discourse.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780393881868

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023


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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019