THE GOOD CITIZEN

A HISTORY OF AMERICAN CIVIC LIFE

An intelligent, thorough synthesis of how the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship have evolved from colonial times to the present. Schudson (Sociology/Univ.. Of Calif., San Diego) sets out first to disabuse the reader of any notions that Americans have always been expected to be informed about politics or even to care. In the 18th century, only a few propertied white males (—freeholders—) could even vote, and elections were more of a social carnival than a political arena. By the Jacksonian era, however, the —common person— had begun to assert the privileges that we have come to regard as rights. Education was more widely available, the explosion of the print media made information available to the newly literate public, and ordinary folks began enacting social change through reform associations. By the late 19th century, machine politics, though corrupt, had created the most personalized electoral system America has ever known. Voter turnout was at its highest in these years, as people eagerly debated issues and saw their friends appointed to government posts. The interwar era saw a disillusionment with democratic citizenship, but the postwar baby boomers —widened the web of citizenship— by again agitating for rights, especially for people who had been previously excluded from the political process. Schudson says that this —rights-regarding— model of citizenship is still the paradigm for contemporary political life. Overall, this is a well-written, general political history, peppered with some fresh sociological insights and useful demographics. But for a book that purports to be about the ordinary person, the research is a bit impersonal: although this is not a direct history of the media in the ways his previous books were (Discovering the News, 1978; Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion, 1984), Schudson overwhelmingly favors newspapers for his primary source material, eschewing more intimate records such as journals and letters. Sometimes overly ambitious, but its grand scale also makes Schudson’s work a valuable introductory text in American politics.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-82729-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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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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