A profoundly moving and relevant work that provides new ways of thinking about the “discovery of America.”

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SILVER, SWORD & STONE

THREE CRUCIBLES IN THE LATIN AMERICAN STORY

The Peruvian-born author delves into the tripartite crux of Latin American exploitation by the Western powers.

Arana (Bolívar: American Liberator, 2013, etc.) skillfully moves between the past and the present in this story about age-old “metal hunger” and authoritarian strongmen. She begins with a poignant contemporary description of Leonor Gonzáles, a woman miner aged beyond her 47 years, a mother and grandmother living and toiling in the “highest human habitation in the world,” La Rinconada, in the Peruvian Andes, hunting for the illegal gold that Western mining companies need to keep economies buoyant. This lust for precious metals is a story that has haunted and corrupted this continent for centuries. Arana traces the histories of the first civilizations in Bolivia, Peru, and Mexico that used the metals for religious worship, long before the rumors of their "value" became known to European powers. The early Inca, Maya, and Aztec rulers were enlightened, yet they had begun to fight among themselves; Arana notes that it wasn’t until the 15th century that metal was used for killing—previously, it was the obsidian bludgeon. Not until the conquistadors landed on Latin American shores did the native peoples learn the murderous power of these shiny metals. The first meeting between Hernán Cortés and Montezuma, in 1519, marked the first fateful connection, and everything changed swiftly, according to the ancient prophesy—slaughter, plague, destruction. The numbers are telling: By 1618, Mexico’s Indigenous population of about 25 million people had plunged to less than 2 million. Added to this has been the depressingly enduring legacy of autocratic rulers, and Arana pointedly explores the ways that generational trauma has been passed down to this day in a heritable form of PTSD and constant worry. “A sudden revolt, a foreign intervention, a pigheaded despot, a violent earthquake might bring down the house of cards,” she writes, closing her impressively concise yet comprehensive history.

A profoundly moving and relevant work that provides new ways of thinking about the “discovery of America.”

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0424-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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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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