Hard-hitting and timely given Russia’s continued sway in international politics as well as its documented influence over an...

A VERY EXPENSIVE POISON

THE ASSASSINATION OF ALEXANDER LITVINENKO AND PUTIN'S WAR WITH THE WEST

A chilling look at the Putin regime’s murderous suppression of its critics.

In 2017, observes Guardian foreign correspondent Harding (The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, 2014, etc.), the Russian president will likely stand again for the office, and winning it—as he certainly will—will put him in the running to be the longest-serving ruler that nation has seen. Meanwhile, under his regime, Russia has “gone from a semi-democracy into something approaching a dictatorship.” No one has been more aware of that transformation than Russia’s journalists, one of whom, Alexander Litvinenko (1962-2006), had been assembling evidence of Putin’s links to Russian organized crime, combining to form a “mafia state.” Litvinenko was silenced by assassins who used polonium to poison him, the first such case in medical history. Litvinenko happened to be in London at the time, which means that the assassins had to enter a country with which Russia was not at war in order to conduct murder, making the case a matter of national security interest. However, Harding writes with mounting indignation, the British government steadily backed down in the face of Putin’s continued aggressions not just against his own citizens, but also in the Crimea. By the author’s account, British Prime Minister David Cameron effectively helped cover up what had by then become the well-known fact of official murder, determined not to harm trade interests. The British government, said one observer, was worried about Putin’s ire, while British intelligence agents were worried about meeting Litvinenko’s fate; Putin was “concerned about being called a mafia boss.” In this fast-paced book, Harding, who was expelled from the Kremlin while serving as the Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief, covers all the bases while exposing the weakness and accommodationism of the now-departed British leadership.

Hard-hitting and timely given Russia’s continued sway in international politics as well as its documented influence over an incoming American administration that is also hostile to the press.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-97399-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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