Equally opposed to conservative despair and liberal nihilism, Podhoretz prescribes an optimistic, grateful patriotism as the...

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MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH AMERICA

THE CAUTIONARY TALE OF A CHEERFUL CONSERVATIVE

The education and polemics of the eminent editor, literary critic, and neoconservative.

Podhoretz (Ex-Friends, 1998, etc.) edited Commentary for decades and, in parting from the received wisdom of the left, has earned the undying enmity of his erstwhile colleagues and collaborators. Now a 70-year-old sage, he opens his account with an autobiography, describing his forcible early assimilation (administered by his public-school teachers, who put him into a remedial speech class) from the Yiddish ghetto of his parents into the broader culture of American society. He emerged from the melting pot so well done that he was soon off to Columbia and Cambridge on major scholarships. Podhoretz thus believes strongly, from firsthand experience, that bilingual education and multicultural curricula will only serve to impede immigrant newcomers from entering the mainstream of American culture. Once out of Brooklyn, Podhoretz’s years in England and the Continent helped him to focus on the relatively classless charm of the US (where, he claims, even the anti-Semitism is muted). “The anti-Americanism I encountered [abroad] . . . strengthen[ed] my deepening recognition that America was my true home; it also resurrected the patriotic zeal that I had grown up with as a child.” Podhoretz attempts to re-create the America he knew and loved, taking us into his mother’s Depression-era kitchen, sharing his schoolboy poem celebrating America’s victory in WWII, and discussing the works of the many essayists, novelists, critics, and pundits with whom he has locked arms or horns with since 1960. He also sounds the warning against public policies (such as affirmative action) and academic theories (such as deconstruction) that he believes have imperiled American culture and politics.

Equally opposed to conservative despair and liberal nihilism, Podhoretz prescribes an optimistic, grateful patriotism as the best antidote for moral decay.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7432-0051-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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