A thoroughly revealing account of a spectacularly inept presidential campaign that politics junkies will eat up.



Wall Street Journal senior White House reporter Bender turns in an engaging fly-on-the-wall account of the losing Trump 2020 campaign.

“I’m the president, and I’m going to stay the president.” So said the former president, who, throughout this circumstantial narrative, wanders hallways late at night, bewildered that it didn’t work out that way. Trump, of course, is famously unreflective—though also a fan of magical thinking, as when he asserted that Covid-19 was simply “going to go away.” Paranoid and superstitious, Trump tried in vain to reconstruct the 2020 campaign so that it went exactly like 2016, but he failed at every turn. “Trump had made derisive nicknames his hallmark but couldn’t find the handle in 2020,” Bender writes, to give just one example. “He tried at least ten different times to rename the former vice president. ‘Sleepy Joe’ was one of the first and most common, but that didn’t sound like a villain so much as someone who needed to go to bed at 9:00 p.m.” Bender’s account would be a comedy of errors if Trump weren’t so spectacularly unfunny. As Trump flubbed at every turn, his support team was even more incompetent, from a clueless Ivanka to a raging Don Jr. to a panoply of advisers whose chief interest seemed to be to soak the campaign for every cent they could. Ranging from the halls of power to the “Front Row Joes” who dutifully showed up for every Trump rally, Bender delivers a nuanced, sharp account whose leitmotif is puzzlement: Trump’s that he lost, Mitch McConnell’s that Trump wouldn’t let it go (he tried to get Bill Barr to convince Trump to back off his claims of election fraud), and Mike Pompeo’s that, as he put it late in the day, “the crazies have taken over.”

A thoroughly revealing account of a spectacularly inept presidential campaign that politics junkies will eat up.

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3480-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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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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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.


A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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