A remarkably forthright and uncompromising exploration of Catholic conscience.

DIGNITY & JUSTICE

WELCOMING THE STRANGER AT OUR BORDER

A Christian assessment of the immigration crisis at the United States’ southern border.

In her nonfiction debut, Dakin-Grimm draws on many years of experience as a lawyer, including six years as an immigration attorney, to help readers understand the current situation facing immigrants to the United States—particularly unaccompanied kids at the U.S.–Mexico border. Along the way, she diagnoses complications in the system and offers potential resolutions. Her study was prompted, in large part, by her personal feelings as a practicing Christian; in her “mostly white, affluent Catholic parish” in California, she writes, “I had never heard a Sunday homily that even mentioned the word ‘immigration,’ much less the phenomenon of these unaccompanied children.” Here, she presents details about these minors and their families and tries to explain why they risk so much in order to come to the United States. She also addresses how devout Catholics can approach the various issues that immigration raises. To do so, she provides a series of detailed profiles, using first names only; Gilberto, for instance, fled the violence of Guatemala’s MS-13 gangs and entered the United States in 2014, seeking asylum. However, Dakin-Grimm explains, the U.S. government “simply does not grant asylum to most of the people we know have suffered terribly, and who we believe to be genuinely fleeing persecution, poverty, terror, wars, famine, and atrocities.” Despite the odds, however, Gilberto eventually got his green card in 2017 and now seeks to become an American citizen. Through these and other stories, the author efficiently dramatizes the struggles of many such seekers, and she uses the accounts to help educate fellow Catholics on their broader implications.

“Jesus never permits us to weigh the value of [immigrants’] lives against other existing difficulties, to turn our backs, or to send them away,” she asserts. “Catholics may never do so, even if U.S. law allows precisely that response.” In polished, well-sourced prose, Dakin-Grimm expounds on the historical and theological roots of the Catholic ethos, tracing them back to St. Thomas Aquinas (“good is to be promoted and evil is to be avoided”) and continuing the throughline to modern-day popes, such as John Paul II; she quotes the latter’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor, which affirmed the existence of moral absolutes as well as their opposites: “certain specific kinds of behavior that are always wrong to choose.” Indeed, the most memorable parts of Dakin-Grimm’s book bracingly dig into such Catholic principles, and she’s refreshingly unyielding on the moral demands that faith places on the faithful: “Catholics may never legitimately conclude that decent suffering people…can be ignored or turned away.” The book also doesn’t flinch from events of the last few years, noting that the Trump administration’s policies resulted in “one of the darkest moments in modern U.S. history.” Throughout, her tone is empathetic and ethical, and some of her Catholic readers may feel chastised as they read. At the same time, they’ll be thrilled to see such a clear case for faith-based compassion.

A remarkably forthright and uncompromising exploration of Catholic conscience.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62698-381-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Orbis

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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