Important reading for our current time, especially as the Mueller Report continues to circulate.



A well-documented exposé explaining how 9/11 transformed the FBI into an agency “using its enhanced national security powers to silence whistleblowers, suppress minority communities, intimidate dissidents, and undermine democratic controls over its operations.”

When he entered the agency in 1988, German (Thinking Like a Terrorist: Insights of a Former FBI Undercover Agent, 2007) found himself admiring many of his fellow agents. However, he gradually began to realize that the FBI top brass—including Robert Mueller and James Comey—presided over an organization rife with sexism, racism, xenophobia, and resistance to honorable agents who pointed out problems through the chain of command. After 9/11—which many believed could have been avoided if the FBI, CIA, and other entities had performed their jobs better—German watched as Islamophobia infected the FBI from the top down. He departed in 2004 but kept a close watch using his own knowledge and that of the whistleblowers still inside. In an unusual move for a former FBI agent, German joined the staff of the American Civil Liberties Union, where he gained a finely honed appreciation of how the FBI routinely violated the rights of Muslims, African Americans, Native Americans, and many other nonwhite citizens. The author developed an especially acute sense of how FBI leadership downplayed the widespread dangers of heavily armed white nationalists, many of whom took their cues from the domestic terrorists responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In addition to developing his theme of misplaced priorities within federal and local law enforcement, German returns frequently to convincing evidence that foreign terrorists who orchestrated 9/11 would strike again inside the United States through a hidden network of sleeper cells. German bemoans the fact that by successfully spreading fear within a dysfunctional federal government—and ineffective FBI—terrorists ripped the fabric of American democracy, perhaps beyond repair. “The FBI,” he writes, “cannot remain effective without public confidence in its work, and regaining this faith should be its top priority.”

Important reading for our current time, especially as the Mueller Report continues to circulate.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62097-379-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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