A stunning history of power, arrogance, and greed.

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THE DREAMT LAND

CHASING WATER AND DUST ACROSS CALIFORNIA

Journalist, biographer, and memoirist Arax (West of the West, 2009, etc.) offers a sweeping, engrossing history of his native California focused on the state’s use, overuse, and shocking mismanagement of water.

“Our water wars,” writes the author, “began 150 years ago, at least. What’s changed is our old nemesis drought has been joined by the new nemesis of climate change—and thirty million more people.” Traveling “from one end of California to the other, from drought to flood to wildfire to mudslide,” he chronicles in absorbing detail the transformation of the state’s Central Valley from modest seasonal farms to huge agribusinesses exporting pistachios, almonds, mandarins, and pomegranates. His story begins in 1769, when Father Junípero Serra, reporting to the Spanish king, combined religious fervor with sophisticated agriculture, building dams and wells and diverting streams to grow wheat, apples, citrus fruits, dates, olives, and grapes. Yet while the land yielded a bounty, the Native American laborers and converts fell victim to European diseases. “In the matter of a single decade,” Arax reports, “tens of thousands of natives from San Francisco to Santa Barbara died from foreign germs.” After the demise of the Spanish missions, Mexico stepped in with “the first great California land grab,” doling out thousands of acres to gentry. That land grab was hardly the last: The author offers sharply etched portraits of some of the most imperious landowners, including Johann August Sutter, who in the 1850s became the state’s “biggest farmer, storekeeper, innkeeper, distiller, miller, tanner, manufacturer, enslaver and liberator”; “cattle king” Henry Miller, who from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s controlled more than 10 million acres, including a few rivers; and Stewart Resnick, the wealthiest farmer in America, perpetrator of clandestine deals and secret pipelines. Drawing on historical sources and nearly 300 interviews, Arax reveals the consequences to land and wildlife of generations of landowners who have defiantly dug, dammed, and diverted California’s waters.

A stunning history of power, arrogance, and greed.

Pub Date: May 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-87520-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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