An energetic presentation of our complicated relationship with God, whom we have welcomed with “open arms, congressional...

READ REVIEW

OUR GREAT BIG AMERICAN GOD

A SHORT HISTORY OF OUR EVER-GROWING DEITY

Turner (Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost, 2010, etc.) surveys the American molding and remolding of God to fit our often curious convictions, a tradition as natively ingrained as “playing baseball, cruising strip mall parking lots, and popping antidepressants.”

God is ambiguous and protean, meaning many things to many people—“Jehovah, Jesus, or Allah to believing in Nature, a ‘Spirit Mother,’ or some other grand presence that usually enjoys silence and book clubs”—writes the author in this engaging history that turns a penetrating eye on how God has been shaped to fit the varieties of faith in America, a land in which nearly 80 percent of us identify with a God. This brand of the divine began with the Puritans and their sui generis God—“a sovereign, doctrinally stout, damnation-prone deity”—celebrating a Calvinist embrace of our personal roles in education and enterprise (namely, worldly goods), which spawned Roger Williams’ reactive take on the protection under law of all religious sects. Jonathan Edwards promoted for his followers a God of glory, beauty and divinity, though also one “ready to toss their meaningless sin-ridden souls into a black hole of fiery torment.” Thomas Jefferson, unsurprisingly, magnified God’s ethical wisdom, yet there was also a God of slavery, as well as a Quaker abolitionist God. Turner’s writing has the quality of a primer, with clear language and ideas that are bandied about without getting bogged down in agnostic and atheistic approaches. The author also displays a playfulness that doesn’t obscure where he falls on doctrinal issues: “Evangelicals are quick to give Jesus the glory when your plan succeeds, but it is never Jesus’s fault when your plan fails. Because Jesus never fails. You do. Somehow, a large portion of America’s evangelicals have become convinced that this process is the ideal Christian life.”

An energetic presentation of our complicated relationship with God, whom we have welcomed with “open arms, congressional protection, free speech, and tax-exempt status.”

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1455547340

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jericho Books/Hachette

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more