A tendentious but effective combination of description and vivisection.

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MITCH, PLEASE!

HOW MITCH MCCONNELL SOLD OUT KENTUCKY (AND AMERICA, TOO)

The founder of Kentucky Sports Radio chronicles his travels around Kentucky and his disdain for Mitch McConnell, who “is quite simply everything wrong with American politics in 2020.” Jones and his companion, Tomlin, who mostly contributes snarky footnotes and humorous barbs, visited all the state’s 120 counties, talking with a wide array of locals—from right to left—about McConnell, political issues, sports, and other topics. The author found himself uniformly welcome (except, oddly, in one church); he even befriended the “tracker” whom McConnell’s team sent to follow him around in search of gaffe and dirt. Throughout the book, Jones employs a sharp political scalpel, eviscerating McConnell. Those looking for a disinterested analysis of the senator will not find it here—as the subtitle broadcasts. The author assails McConnell for his numerous flaws: flipping on issues (abortion rights), hypocrisy (on the power of money in political campaigns), and favoring the rich over most of his constituents. Ultimately, writes Jones, McConnell is “a soulless political being.” We also learn about the author’s history (his father left the family when he was young), his struggles with epilepsy, and his growing realization that if he decides to run for office, McConnell will do his utmost to destroy him. Most effective are the author’s descriptions of the towns and sites he visited and the people he met. In the small cafes, on farms, at festivals and colleges—Jones came to see that there were three issues that dominate the political debate in Kentucky: God, guns and babies, a list that serves as one of his chapter titles. Regarding guns, he writes, “McConnell has repeatedly refused to advance any gun control legislation after each of our nation’s many mass school shootings.” Jones notes how the GOP pounds away at those issues, knowing that many in Kentucky rank below them such issues as health care and the environment. A tendentious but effective combination of description and vivisection.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982142-04-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

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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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Though cheerleading occasionally grates, Plouffe offers good fodder for readers willing to put in the effort and follow his...

A CITIZEN'S GUIDE TO BEATING DONALD TRUMP

Barack Obama’s former campaign manager and senior adviser weighs in on what it will take to defeat Donald Trump and repair some of the damage caused by the previous election’s “historically disturbing and perhaps democracy-destroying outcome.”

Plouffe (The Audacity To Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory, 2009) managed Obama’s successful campaigns in 2008 and 2012. His unsurprising goal in 2020 is to take down Trump, and he provides a detailed guide for every American to become involved beyond just voting. Where the author is not offering specific suggestions for individual involvement, he engages in optimistic encouragement to put readers in the mindset to entertain his suggestions. Plouffe wisely realizes that many potential readers feel beaten down by the relentlessness of Trump’s improper behavior and misguided policies, so there is plenty of motivational exhortation that highly motivated readers might find unnecessary. When he turns to voting statistics, he’s on solid ground. Plouffe expresses certainty that Trump will face opposition from at least 65 million voters in the 2020 election. One of the author’s goals is to increase that number to somewhere between 70 and 75 million, which would be enough to win not only the popular votes for the Democratic Party nominee, but also the Electoral College by a comfortable margin. Some of that increased number can be achieved by increasing the percentage of citizens who vote, with additional gains from voters who vote for the Democratic nominee rather than symbolically supporting a third-party candidate. Plouffe also feels optimistic about persuading Obama supporters who—perhaps surprisingly—voted for Trump in 2016. As for individual involvement prior to November, the author favors direct action. Door-to-door canvassing is his favorite method, but he offers alternatives for those who cannot or will not take their opinions to the streets, including campaigning via social media. And while the author would love to change the Electoral College, he wisely tells readers they must live with it again this time around.

Though cheerleading occasionally grates, Plouffe offers good fodder for readers willing to put in the effort and follow his advice.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7949-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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