A powerful exposé of disturbing realities underlying enduringly misunderstood urban legends.



Evenhanded account of a legendary Chicago street gang.

Chicago Public Radio reporter Moore (co-author: Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation, 2006) and Williams (Sociology/Northeastern Illinois Univ.) began this collaboration “out of sheer curiosity” about the storied Blackstone Rangers, which evolved into the titular “nation” and then the Islamist El Rukns. Scant history existed of the gang, which began in the 1960s in the impoverished Woodlawn neighborhood. By the ’80s, they were pursued by authorities for conspiring with Libya to commit terrorism. The authors create a valuable panorama of urban decline, demonstrating how the well-intentioned “Great Society” programs of the ’60s were replaced by punitive policies that both demonized and isolated African-American males. The narrative revolves around Rangers co-founder Jeff Fort, a fascinatingly contradictory individual described as compassionate, ruthless and shrewd. Early on, his innovation was to work with older criminals while insisting that all other South Side youth gangs form an allegiance with the Rangers. While the group expanded, they benefited from alliances with well-intentioned churches and the social services spurred by Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” Predictably, this enraged the Chicago police and the FBI, who by 1968 were convinced the Rangers would be the armed vanguard of revolutionary terrorism. When Fort was released from federal prison in 1976, he took his gang in an unexpected direction. Developing an interest in the Moorish Temple of Science movement, he renamed the group “El Rukns.” However, they remained involved in drug dealing, and law enforcement remained predictably hostile, leading to Fort’s notorious terror indictment (and a life sentence). Although documentation of the gang’s audacious criminal brutality remains blurry, this is a well-executed narrative that clarifies little-understood elements of both the War on Terror and the violence and isolation still haunting black America.

A powerful exposé of disturbing realities underlying enduringly misunderstood urban legends.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55652-845-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books/Chicago Review

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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...


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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