A spirited, often entertaining rant against things as they are.

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FANTASYLAND

HOW AMERICA WENT HAYWIRE: A 500-YEAR HISTORY

When did Americans come to shun reality? When did the American experiment become a congeries of solipsisms?

“As I pass by fish in barrels,” writes Studio 360 host Andersen (True Believers, 2012, etc.) at the outset of this entertaining tour of American irreality, “I will often shoot them.” Indeed he does, but then, as writers as various as H.L. Mencken and Christopher Hitchens long ago discovered, American society offers endless targets. Andersen finds a climacteric in Karl Rove’s pronouncement, a dozen years ago, that those people who live in “the reality-based community” need to understand that “that’s not the way the world really works anymore.” True enough: Andersen closes with the rise of Trump-ism and its “critical mass of fantasy and lies” that is in danger of becoming “something much worse than nasty, oafish, reality-show pseudoconservatism.” It’s not just the Trumpies who are ruining things for everyone; by the author’s account, the nice liberals who refuse to vaccinate their children are as much a part of the problem as those who flock to creation museums and megachurches. All are waystations of Andersen’s “Fantasyland,” an assemblage not just of scattered false beliefs, but whole lifestyles cobbled from them, which lands us in the 1960s and its ethos: “Do your own thing, find your own reality, it’s all relative.” It’s not, but that’s where we are today, at least by Andersen’s account, though he hastens to add that approving nods to political correctness are not necessarily the same thing as endorsing perniciousness. Throughout, the author names names—Dr. Oz, for one, won’t be happy, and neither will Oprah—and takes no prisoners, offering incitement for the rest of us to do the same. “We need to become less squishy,” Andersen writes, and instead gird up for some reality-based arguments against the “dangerously untrue and unreal.”

A spirited, often entertaining rant against things as they are.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6721-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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