An often formidable read about an activist immigrant’s experience.


A debut memoir and political treatise by an Indian-born, Muslim immigrant to Canada.

In a foreword, retired engineer Javed begins his book with a powerful denunciation of “genocidal” U.S.–led sanctions against Iraq and the Second Gulf War. These sanctions, and subsequent war and occupation, were “the real weapon of mass destruction,” the author says, which “deprived innocent children of their right to live, play, and love.” Much of the rest of the book centers on Javed’s human rights activism in Canada and the United States from the mid-1990s onward, particularly his work with the Nova Scotia Campaign to End Iraq Sanctions. This work brought him in close proximity to leading Canadian figures, including Jamal Badawi, a professor emeritus at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax; Canadian Parliament member Svend Robinson; and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Many chapters focus on human rights abuses in Iraq and Islamophobia in the West, but the author weaves together international and domestic political history with his own personal story. As such, Javed’s book doubles as a powerful memoir of a self-made immigrant. He tells of his upbringing in India and includes brutally honest accounts of being sexual abused by fellow students in his late teens. He also tells of his search for work in Saudi Arabia, Canada, and the United States. He eventually became a successful engineer who helped build the new San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, but Javed also effectively recounts the hardships of his initial, failed laundromat business and other entrepreneurial ventures as well as his victimization at the hands of con artists eager to prey upon vulnerable immigrants. Overall, Javed writes in clear, evocative prose throughout and shows himself to be unafraid to denounce the West while also praising the opportunities provided by Canada. This strong narrative, however, is often broken up by inserted photocopies of correspondence, letters to newspaper editors, and emails related to his political activism. Although these are valuable primary sources, the documents’ tedious nature interrupts an otherwise seamless narrative flow, and they would have been better placed in an appendix.

An often formidable read about an activist immigrant’s experience.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-4207-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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