by Obi Nwasokwa ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 23, 2016
A book that offers a worthwhile reflection on racial relations in America but a hagiographic interpretation of Obama’s...
A self-described admirer of President Barack Obama makes the case for his greatness.
Whatever judgment one ultimately makes of Obama’s presidency, it is certainly one of historical significance, not the least because he’s the first African-American to occupy the Oval Office. Debut author Nwasokwa argues, as the book’s title suggests, that Obama can already be judged a great president on meritocratic grounds as well. Nwasokwa presents a detailed history of Obama’s rising political fortunes, beginning with his emergence into the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Shortly after, despite his own admittedly brief resume in Washington, D.C., Obama ran for the highest office in the land. The author gives a remarkably granular account of his subject’s implausible electoral success, surely an underdog against a powerfully entrenched establishment candidate, including a provocative discussion of the controversy involving Obama’s spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Nwasokwa’s treatment then largely revolves around what he considers to be the major achievements of Obama’s tenure, focusing on his economic stimulus programs and the passage of health care reform legislation. The author liberally sprinkles in autobiographical asides in the book, sometimes discussing his own experiences as an African-American in the United States. These are some of the finest sections of this volume, and Nwasokwa thoughtfully considers the historical contradictions that beset the United States, a country of great opportunity and generosity but also persistent racism and social inequity. The prose often lacks discipline, providing pagelong paragraphs overloaded with information that too often tax the reader. But the principal failing of the study is that the author’s fawning adoration makes it impossible for him to capture the complexity of Obama’s often controversial presidency. Nwasokwa glosses over the criticisms of the president’s major policy achievements, even those forwarded from the political left. For example, despite nuanced debates even within Obama’s own party regarding his stewardship of the economy from the recession, the author concludes that all of the president’s reforms “succeeded beyond expectation.” While there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to “savor and honor” Obama’s leadership, such adoration renders both objectivity and the appreciation of dissent impossible.A book that offers a worthwhile reflection on racial relations in America but a hagiographic interpretation of Obama’s presidency.
Pub Date: March 23, 2016
Page Count: 528
Review Posted Online: June 19, 2016
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
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
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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.
“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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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