Nonetheless, these nostalgic depictions of direct-action protest may well inspire a new radical generation.

WE TOOK THE STREETS

FIGHTING FOR LATINO RIGHTS WITH THE YOUNG LORDS

Didactic account of nationalism and empowerment in New York’s Puerto Rican community during the 1960s and ’70s.

Melendez describes growing up in a poor, gang-ridden neighborhood that still valued its communal Puerto Rican heritage. He was gradually politicized, alongside like-minded comrades, at the local colleges that recruited them as token minorities: “We all wanted to look like, and emulate, Che,” he says of the Young Lords, a group that first attracted attention with a garbage-burning to protest inadequate trash removal in El Barrio (as opposed to affluent districts). The group’s m.o. became “a balance of embarrassing the state . . . and being able to present popular solutions to address the issue at hand.” The Young Lords occupied a conservative church that rebuffed their efforts at social programs, then formed their own underground wing (inspired by acquaintance with the violence-prone Weathermen), “dedicated to offensive and defensive military action under the political direction of the party.” This militancy was evident in later operations, like the hijacking of a city X-ray truck to draw attention to El Barrio’s TB epidemic, and a takeover of the South Bronx’s benighted Lincoln Hospital (where Melendez later contributed to a crucial heroin detox program), which stirred support from progressive doctors but resentment from the police. Inevitably, the Young Lords received hostile scrutiny from the FBI’s Cointelpro, and Melendez suggests the agency had a hand in member Julio Roldán’s death, which “was pivotal in bringing about our disintegration.” Although the group’s influence faded, Melendez continued to pursue Puerto Rican rights and independence. (He teaches today at Boricua College.) His memoir depicts turbulent times and exhaustively addresses the essential inequities in minority communities that provoked such strife. But his sonorous and preachy prose, seething with 30-year-old grievances, is not terribly inviting, and his revolutionary rhetoric is painfully dated.

Nonetheless, these nostalgic depictions of direct-action protest may well inspire a new radical generation.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-26701-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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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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