A well-documented and persuasively written examination of the change in Iranian women’s status under the country’s secular...

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JEWELS OF ALLAH

THE UNTOLD STORY OF WOMEN IN IRAN

A nuanced look at the role women have played in Iran in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In this debut nonfiction book, Ansary looks at the role of women in modern Iran from a sociopolitical perspective, pushing beyond stereotypes to assess the actual impacts of government policies, religious beliefs, and social norms on women’s lives. The book focuses on a key paradox of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. With the veil legalized and the coeducational classrooms of the previous era strictly segregated by sex, the clerics created an environment in which girls from traditional families could attend school without violating social norms, leading to an unintended increase in the education of women after the shah’s laws encouraging gender equity were repealed: “The fact is that the so-called Islamization of education has proven to be responsible for generating unprecedented educational gains for the vast majority of the female population.” Ansary also examines the roles of textbooks, which continue to depict women in professional roles, and women’s magazines, which have expressed and represented the views of women from across a spectrum of feminist beliefs. While she counters the stereotype of the veiled woman kept entirely under male control, Ansary does acknowledge that women’s rights have been curtailed under religious law; even reformist politicians are limited by the ayatollahs’ strictures. But Ansary is able to connect the restrictions on women’s freedom to the broader context of domestic politics in Iran, particularly the 2009 anti-government demonstrations. She notes, “Perhaps the government’s failed ideology has been most obvious to a defiant female population that continues to boldly protest their enforced status of inferiority.” The book, which is thoroughly footnoted, concludes with a series of captioned pictures of notable Iranian women. Although the book’s approach is often academic, with references to theories of child development and political structure, it maintains an engaging tone that makes it easy for casual readers to follow the arguments.

A well-documented and persuasively written examination of the change in Iranian women’s status under the country’s secular and religious governments.

Pub Date: June 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0986406409

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Revela Press

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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