A solid entry point into the lives of a people who have fully earned their place on the world stage.

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THE NEW KOREANS

THE STORY OF A NATION

An exploration of “the cultural emergence and…international awareness and acceptance of South Korean expression to a point of familiarity.”

In this update and extension of his earlier book, The Koreans (1999), Breen (Kim Jong-Il: North Korea's Dear Leader, 2004, etc.), a longtime observer of the country’s rise to global prominence, finds much to love and emulate about people, specifically those in the South. Indeed, his fondness for the Koreans often causes him to excuse some of their less-pleasant traits, such as the tendency, as part of their hierarchical culture, to act rudely toward people they deem inferior. In Breen’s characterization, the South Koreans are as amazed as the rest of the world by their success, since only 40 years prior, the future still looked bleak under their dictatorial government. Only in the 21st century have the Koreans woken up “to their own arrival in the world,” largely thanks to the hard-striving generation of those born between 1920 and 1955, who embraced and contributed to the country’s economic development. In discrete chapters, Breen tackles some of the themes dear and/or onerous to the country, including its defiance in the face of Japanese invasion and North Korean aggression; its proud reforestation projects started in the late 1960s; the stubborn obeisance to authority and need for a leader; massive gentrification; growth of Protestantism; near-universal literacy rate; high suicide rate; and near-lowest birth rate in the world. Along with a deep consideration of the materialistic bent of the worker bees, Breen is rooting for the country’s democratic system, only in place for two decades and living in uneasy compatibility with an independent-minded military. And where once the author was predicting unity of North and South in the Korean peninsula, he now calls rather for “reconciliation” between the two sides, which can only happen, he admits, when the North’s leadership decides to make the change.

A solid entry point into the lives of a people who have fully earned their place on the world stage.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-06505-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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