Parallel Lines

Rizk, in his debut, warns of the coming destruction of the country unless its hapless citizens rise up and repent.
Debut author Rizk, who once taught calculus to Chinese exchange students in Englewood, New Jersey, reveals little else about himself in this diatribe against greed, immortality and pervasive government corruption. His historical narrative comes no closer to the present day than the pernicious behavior of the two Bush administrations; the last decade goes largely unmentioned. But the book’s theme, which draws heavily on biblical prophecy in the Book of Revelation, is clear: Unless societies and their leaders execute justice, then doom is inevitable. The timing of the destruction, Rizk says, will depend on when less than a handful of godly people can be found in a city or a state, and when God finally runs out of patience. However, there will be warnings first, the author says, such as when terrorists made an abortive earlier attempt in 1993 to take down the World Trade Center before it finally fell in 2001. Although the book tries to be enigmatic, it broadly hints that the Babylon prophesized to fall in the Book of Revelation precisely fits the profile of modern-day New York, right down to the seven letters in each name. The author’s fervent hope, he says, is to get his message out that repentance is the only real homeland security before powerful forces intercede to shut him up. This brief book has the quality of a New York City cab ride, during which the driver holds forth while the passenger listens with varying levels of interest and credulity. Some moments have a distant ring of truth, as when Rizk suggests that debates about abortion never mention that “unmarried women like to have sex.” However, the book then moves into moral zealotry, as it goes on to say that “their gods are their bellies and fornications are their glory.” The author also notes that Harvard and Yale “sell their degrees to anyone who can pay”; many people who have applied with money in hand, however, would not agree.
A fulfillment of the author’s desire to publicly speak the truth as he sees it.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1493124114

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2014

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

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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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