ROSA LEE

A MOTHER AND HER FAMILY IN URBAN AMERICA

A family caught in the maelstrom of the urban underclass made devastatingly human in an amplified version of a Pulitzer Prizewinning newspaper series. Washington Post staff writer Dash (When Children Want Children, 1988) had virtually no bylines from 1990 to 1994. Instead, he spent countless hours with Rosa Lee Cunningham and the many members of her family with whom she shared an addiction to drugs and crime. Interviews took place in the various jails to which one family member or another was consigned, in the North Carolina county where Rosa Lee's grandparents were sharecroppers before moving to Washington, D.C., in 1935, and in bedrooms while someone was shooting up. Dash accompanied Rosa Lee to methadone clinics, emergency rooms, funerals, and court hearings. The result is a glimpse into a strange and horrifying netherworld where poverty, illiteracy, and behavior destructive to self and society are passed on from one generation to the next. But what makes this book remarkable is that we come to know Rosa Lee as a human being, someone who could have been much more than the woman who died of AIDS in 1995 at age 59. Several of Rosa Lee's brothers and sisters and two of her eight children escaped the world of drugs and poverty, and Dash does not absolve Rosa Lee of blame for her many bad choices. Neither, however, does he absolve American society from its guilt for offering people like Rosa Lee, an illiterate black woman born into grinding poverty, so few options from which to choose. ``She was caught up in a tragedy for which . . . she was partially at fault, but, at the same time, one that was foreordained,'' he writes. Dash's epic achievement makes Rosa Lee's story understandable as an American tragedy. Rosa Lee's warm human face is a vital contribution to the public policy debates that almost universally reduce the urban underclass to grim statistics. ($50,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-465-07092-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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