Forget the Arab-Israeli conflict, which, suggests this book, appears almost a sideshow compared to the protracted, bitter intra-Egyptian struggle between secular, pro-Western modernists and fundamentalist Muslims who are battling them to create a state governed by the Shariah (Islamic law). Weaver, who has covered the country for the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly, vividly portrays the land where over one out of every three Arabs lives as increasingly out of control, beset by very rapid demographic growth, poverty and unemployment, and a monstrously large, hidebound, and sometimes corrupt bureaucracy. Into this societal breach have stepped a number of fundamentalist, fervently antimodernist Islamic leaders whom Weaver profiles, such as Dr. Abdel-Sabour Shahin, a Shariah scholar. He denounces a colleague who interprets the law significantly more liberally as an apostate, and coolly proclaims to the author, “The prescribed penalty for apostasy is execution.”. As the November 1997 Luxor massacre revealed, these men and their disciples are willing to use terror against civilians in their efforts to overthrow the 17-year, largely complacent regime of Hosni Mubarak, which ineffectively alternates between appeasing the fundamentalists and brutally cracking down on them. To little avail: fundamentalist Muslims continue to gain influence among university students, the army, the judiciary, the diplomatic corps—and, above all, myriads of poor Egyptians, in part because they have “built a social and welfare system rivaling that of the state.” Weaver, who clearly knows Egypt well and apparently is semi-fluent in Arabic (she converses directly with certain figures, though she arrives with a translator for others), has an engaging and sometimes colorful style. She relies almost exclusively on her own interviews and perceptions, unfortunately not integrating other scholarly, journalistic, and fictional accounts of Egypt. Her prognosis is essentially gloomy: the increasingly violent Kulturkampf between secular modernists and fundamentalist Muslims likely will continue, with the latter appearing well on their way to gaining the upper hand.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-23542-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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