Picking up the cudgels wielded by Ida Tarbell and her fellow trustbusters, McGoey produces a startling report.

NO SUCH THING AS A FREE GIFT

THE GATES FOUNDATION AND THE PRICE OF PHILANTHROPY

McGoey (Sociology/Univ. of Essex) probes the business motivations of contemporary philanthropic organizations.

“One of the most acute ironies concerning the size of today’s philanthropic foundations,” writes the author, “is that the emergence of will-financed, politically powerful behemoths is rooted in a political philosophy that cautioned against using the centralized power of states to plan or develop economic growth.” McGoey charges that philanthropy does not necessarily help the underserved and poor, and it often undermines taxation and preserves both wealth and inequality. The author exemplifies her argument by concentrating on Bill Gates and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Business and philanthropy have always been related, she insists; the giving of Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller was driven by a desire to counter hostile public opinion. The author takes up the question of “whether a self-interested action can ever be truly philanthropic,” and she draws attention to “a new, pugnacious, explicitly commercial form of philanthropy.” As the author notes, current charity law does not prevent philanthropists—and their organizations—from donating to for-profit private companies, as long as the “grant is used for solely charitable purposes.” Gates, a hands-on leader, oversees donations and their effects, and in 2013, his organization became “the largest single donor” to the World Health Organization. This provides considerable political clout, and experts have questioned the effectiveness of his polio and HIV/AIDS programs abroad. In the U.S., his funds have gone largely to education, but when initiatives are deemed failures and shut down, recipients have little recourse. There is a public interest, as McGoey acknowledges, in both health and education, where accountability and continuity are primary concerns. Private initiative, tainted by corporate entanglement, often lacks accountability and can cause stability to be replaced by personal whims. The author stresses that much good has been accomplished, as well, but questions continue to accumulate.

Picking up the cudgels wielded by Ida Tarbell and her fellow trustbusters, McGoey produces a startling report.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78478-083-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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