Certainly for Kremlinologists but also for readers wishing to better understand how Putin’s Russia has come to look so much...

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ALL THE KREMLIN'S MEN

INSIDE THE COURT OF VLADIMIR PUTIN

A veteran journalist and former editor-in-chief of Russia’s only independent TV news station paints a revealing group portrait of the entourage influencing Vladimir Putin.

With the likely exception of Dmitry Medvedev, the hand-picked successor whose 2008-2012 reign allowed President Putin to skip over the constitution’s annoying bar to a third consecutive term, few of the names Zygar highlights will resonate with a Western audience. Yet these bureaucrats, politicians, and businessmen, each with his own ego, ambition, and agenda, each attempting to divine the will of the leader, each reacting to events, account for Putin’s decision-making. Based on his own research and close observation of the Russian scene for the past 15 years and a large number of personal interviews, Zygar pieces together the depressing story of Putin’s declension. It’s a regression exposed by the president’s choice of best friends among the world’s leaders: from Bush and Blair to Schroeder and Chirac, Berlusconi and al-Assad. It’s a downward slope from necessary economic and military reforms and a commitment to combating Islamic terrorism to the effort to manipulate public opinion, discipline the oligarchs, suppress internal opposition, and steel the government against the “color revolutions” springing up in the post-Soviet and Arab states. Finally, there are the military interventions in Georgia and Ukraine, the seizure of Crimea, a shrinking economy, and a forthright anti-West foreign policy. Zygar touches on all the headline-making events familiar to Western readers—the Kursk submarine tragedy, the Chechen terrorist attack in a Moscow theater, the army hazing scandals, the Pussy Riot arrests, the Sochi Olympics, and the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya—but this time we see these events through the eyes of Putin’s inner circle, courtiers intent on retaining power and propping up their man.

Certainly for Kremlinologists but also for readers wishing to better understand how Putin’s Russia has come to look so much like the old Soviet Union.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61039-739-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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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