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LETTERS TO A YOUNG MUSLIM

Laced with Western pluralism and liberalism, the author tries to push back the rigid moralism of Islam as he has often known...

An appeal to critical thought and broad values for young Muslims.

Ghobash, ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Russia, presents a series of open letters crafted for his young sons as they grow up Muslim in the modern world. The author has a unique background: his mother is Russian, and his father was Arab. Moreover, his father was assassinated when a supporter of the Palestinian cause mistook him for another man who was a political target. The author was a young boy at the time of his father’s death, and he has spent a lifetime reflecting on what senseless violence did to him and his family. He has written these letters to his own sons—born in 2000 and 2004—in order to provide them with written accounts of his own values and thoughts on Islam. Throughout, he asks them to consider varying points of view, do their own research, and make up their own minds. Ghobash seems most intent on convincing his sons to think for themselves rather than to allow clerics, scholars, and activists to influence their thinking. The author states unequivocally “Islam is a religion of peace,” and then spends an entire chapter discussing what that statement really means, given the reality of violence in the world. He urges his sons to “see the world through the prism of responsibility,” as he himself does, doing what is right and caring for the needs of others. “We need to take responsibility for the Islam of peace,” he concludes. Ghobash takes largely liberal views on many issues, such as the role of women in society. He seems interestingly reticent on proclaiming strong views about the leadership and direction of Islam or passing anything but the most general judgment upon extremists.

Laced with Western pluralism and liberalism, the author tries to push back the rigid moralism of Islam as he has often known it. Certainly heartfelt, the book is also reserved and largely unemotional.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11984-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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