But the delivery, a careless sermon to the choir, will not convince those most in need of convincing. A shame: von Hoffman’s...

HOAX

A full charge of liberal birdshot, aimed and fired at the broad side of the barn—or, better, White House.

George Bush’s recent adventure in Iraq is, Washington Post columnist von Hoffman (Capitalist Fools, 1992, etc.) asserts, a classic con game: “There was the bait (terrorism), then the switch (weapons of mass destruction), then a switch again (kill the dictator), and yet again (regime change).” As with any con, the perpetrator has to be either damn good at the game or have a particularly stupid victim in tow; von Hoffman does not dwell unseemly long on the second possibility, though he does reckon that the US differs from the bygone USSR only by lagging behind 40 years: Americans, he writes, “may not drink vodka, but add up the drunks and the Americans stoned on prescription drugs and recreational substances, and what percentage of the USA’s population is perpetually intoxicated? Thirty? Forty? But no Chernobyl, just blackouts.” The side widens, the shot scatters: here von Hoffman likens American forces’ arrival in Baghdad to “Adolf Hitler’s waltz into the Rhineland in 1936,” a woefully sloppy analogy; there he lampoons Bush’s famous—or infamous, depending on your point of view—descent onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, “bowlegged from his oversized cod piece, proclaiming the end of a war which was never fought to seize a cache of weapons of mass destruction which didn’t exist”; here he picks on poor George M. Cohan for supplying “pathological patriotism with a hymnal full of danceable, singable songs”; there he sneaks in a dig at modern America’s allergy to facts or critical thinking. Occasionally the author hits a target: he’s right in wondering why we went after Manuel Noriega way back when, right in recalling that our long embargo on Iraq caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of blameless children, right in pointing out the US’s infantile need to be loved and applauded by other nations.

But the delivery, a careless sermon to the choir, will not convince those most in need of convincing. A shame: von Hoffman’s done much better.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-56025-582-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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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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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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