A searing and sobering indictment of the public health care system that highlights the inequality of treatment.

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A Spirit of Charity

RESTORING THE BOND BETWEEN AMERICA AND ITS PUBLIC HOSPITALS

In the spirit of investigative journalism, this assessment of public hospitals paints a grim picture of health care for the poor in America.

Debut author King, a former newspaper reporter, focuses primarily on Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, showing that the public hospital in general has become “the symbol of how the poor are cared for in the United States.” This book traces Grady’s history and compares it to the evolution of four other public hospitals, demonstrating the challenges such centers face in serving their communities. Grady’s story is deftly interwoven with the advents of Medicare and Medicaid and, more recently, the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps most disturbing is King’s insightful exploration of the intersection of race, poverty, and health care, particularly in the South. Grady, for example, which started as “White Grady” and “Black Grady,” was desegregated after the 1964 Civil Rights Act; still, “remnants of Grady’s segregated past lingered for years.” The larger issue, however, was Grady’s compensation for taking impoverished patients. Grady’s Emergency Room, like those of other public hospitals, couldn’t turn away patients with life-threatening ailments. King notes, however, that nonprofit and private hospitals routinely “send patients without life-threatening conditions who come to their ERs to a public hospital for what they deem to be nonemergency care.” Public hospitals typically receive payment for these poor patients via Medicaid—but in the South, “state Medicaid programs have been unusually restrictive.” In fact, the author reports, “by refusing to expand Medicaid, Georgia was leaving about $9 million a day on the table, unclaimed for use by the neediest people in the state and the hospitals that treat them.” Grady survived, writes King, because of the efforts of local business leaders rather than county or state governments. In this important book, the author more briefly recounts similar stories of the other four public hospitals: Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, the John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, and Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Carefully documented, journalistically crafted, and artfully told, this account illuminates the myriad struggles of public hospitals to effectively treat the indigent. King bluntly asks: “Have we reached the point where public officials, particularly those in the South, are frozen in the ice of their own indifference when it comes to the government’s responsibility in caring for the poor?”

A searing and sobering indictment of the public health care system that highlights the inequality of treatment.

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944962-06-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Secant Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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