A worthy contribution to the controversial discussions around how to compensate for crimes past and present.

BLACK GHOST OF EMPIRE

THE LONG DEATH OF SLAVERY AND THE FAILURE OF EMANCIPATION

A pointed study of the dissolution of slave economies in emancipation and the exceedingly long tail between so-called freedom and justice.

Tufts University historian Manjapra identifies five categories of emancipation, none of them quite satisfactory inasmuch as “the emancipations—the acts meant to end slavery—only extended the war forward in time.” None ever effectively erased the color line, and then there’s “the ghost line,” an extension of personal ghosting into the social sphere, wherein the “ghostliner” simply ignores the experience of formerly enslaved and currently oppressed peoples and insists on “ ‘unseeing’ the plundered parts, and ‘unhearing’ their historical demands for reparatory justice.” The author, born in the Caribbean of mixed African and Indian heritage, considers the forms of emancipation practiced by the British and French governments that compensated slaveholders for the loss of their putative property. In Colonial New York, this played out in numerous ways. For example, when enslaved people were manumitted, their former owners were required to post a bond for them in case they should ever become public wards, a charge they passed on to the freed people. As such, “they were ‘freed’ into the condition of having to pay their oppressors.” In some instances, enslaved people emancipated themselves, as with the uprising that led to the establishment of Haiti, whose slaveholder class the French government repaid for their losses without considering that reparations were due the formerly enslaved. “In its most banal expression,” Manjapra writes, “white supremacy is merely the wish among groups who benefited from slavery to continue to enjoy its spoils and privileges long after its formal death.” This supremacist stance self-evidently endures nearly 160 years after slavery was formally ended in the U.S., and reparations are still yet to materialize. “The struggle for reparatory justice,” the author concludes meaningfully, “belongs to the history of slavery and emancipation itself.”

A worthy contribution to the controversial discussions around how to compensate for crimes past and present.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982123-47-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

Did you like this book?

more