NIXON IN WINTER

HIS OFF-THE-RECORD CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE END OF THE COLD WAR, THE SCANDALS OF WASHINGTON, AND LIFE IN AND OUT OF THE ARENA

A hagiographic account of the last years of Richard M. Nixon. As a college student, Crowley wrote Nixon a letter. Invited to meet with him, she ended up his assistant, friend, and biographer. She seems to have been as close to Nixon as anyone ever was outside his family. Here and in an earlier volume drawing on her time with him (Nixon off the Record, 1996), she allows Nixon to speak for himself through the copious and detailed notes she kept of their interactions. Nixon in the late 1980s and 1990s was frail and aged, but still very much a player in the game of foreign policy. Here we see him traveling to Russia as that nation fumbles toward democracy, to China as it tries to understand the market forces it has unleashed. He meets with world leaders, attempts to influence the leaders of the US, tries to—as Crowley puts it—“complete the comeback.” Crowley is there, sitting in his study, as he thinks aloud, reminisces, philosophizes about life and death. These private moments reveal much about a man who remains an enigmatic figure. One touching scene has a lonely, widowed Nixon awkwardly heating up canned chili for the two of them. Unfortunately, Crowley may be too close to her subject. She has no criticism of him, exercises no independent judgment. Nixon still speaks of “enemies” out to get him. On Vietnam he admits no wrong. On Watergate he admits it was his fault, but only in the sense that he, being Nixon, was hated by the press and so was held to a higher standard than presidents before or after him. But when Crowley speaks, it is merely to repeat and support Nixon’s views. How one receives this book will depend on how one perceives Nixon. Crowley might have helped us navigate our prejudices but, alas, is more apologist than guide. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-45695-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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