A sharp portrayal of the potential of the 1960s through the lens of RFK.

JUSTICE RISING

ROBERT KENNEDY’S AMERICA IN BLACK AND WHITE

A distillation of the motivations and importance of Robert F. Kennedy’s life and legacy.

In this enterprising biography, University of South Carolina history professor Sullivan seeks to encapsulate the essence of Kennedy’s journey as an advocate for the oppressed and disadvantaged in America. In equal measure, she humanizes Kennedy and those around him by using precise, occasionally exhausting detail. Though some sections are dry, the accretion of historical moments lends enough of a novelistic air to the book to keep the pages turning. The impeccably researched text encompasses the entirety of Kennedy’s political career, with weight given to the transformation he underwent in terms of how he conceptualized racial oppression and poverty in the U.S. and abroad. Sullivan also carefully considers the specific methods Kennedy sought to implement to change the state of race relations and combat poverty in the U.S. In doing so, she effectively shows why Kennedy, who cared deeply about the plights of his fellow citizens, was beloved by millions. The author nicely balances cogent analyses of Kennedy’s large-scale policies—focused on, among other significant issues, poverty, desegregation, integration, and the Vietnam War—and the more personal nuances involved in his interactions with not just Americans, but also people in other nations around the world. Though the author relies heavily on quotations, it’s not burdensome. Rather than paraphrasing political arguments, Sullivan effectively conveys the message directly from the primary sources to readers. This approach also allows the author to portray the power of Kennedy’s speeches. In 1966, writes Sullivan, “Kennedy warned that ‘it would be a national disaster to permit resentment and fear to drive increasing numbers of white and black Americans into opposing camps of distrust and enmity.’ There was but one choice, he said: ‘to face our difficulties and strive to overcome them, or turn away, bringing repression, increasing human pain, and civil strife.’ ”

A sharp portrayal of the potential of the 1960s through the lens of RFK.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-73745-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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