A bipartisan and commonsensical study of U.S. disharmony, though somewhat lacking in originality.



A book delivers a synopsis of the cleavages that divide Americans and some potential solutions.

One of the most scrupulously studied of subjects in American political discourse is citizens’ toxic divisiveness, something that could, according to Brakke (American Justice?, 2016), bring about the nation’s demise. He provides a taxonomy of the various species of disunity that plague the United States, including more obvious ones like racial and economic division, and less frequently discussed ones such as the disharmony engendered by generational and geographical differences. In the case of racial tension, the author situates the problem within its long-standing historical context, assessing the ways in which race-based enmity has been fostered since the nation’s genesis. Brakke also furnishes an analysis of the resentful tug-of war between cosmopolitan cities and the rural areas that lie beyond their perimeters. In each section, the author summarizes the problem, presenting the viewpoint from either side, and then supplies some candidate solutions. For example, within a discussion of the increasingly wide distance that separates the old and the young in the United States, Brakke suggests dispensing a tax credit to fully grown children who are willing to live with and care for their aging parents. In addition, while assessing the obstinate problem of racial tension in the country, he draws from the example of the military, which has managed to successfully combat segregation without resorting to any controversial affirmative action program. The cogent theme underlying the entire study is that while the fracturing of the nation into warring parts threatens its existence, there remains hope in the many ways those factions still depend upon one another. Brakke’s prose couldn’t be clearer—he writes with informality and intellectual temperance. In addition, it’s refreshing to see a work that addresses American divisiveness explore territory beyond race, wealth, and political affiliation. But the solutions the author offers don’t break much new ground, and can be as exasperatingly general as they are obvious. For example, as an antidote to racial tension, he counsels: “Anything that would reduce poverty in the urban ghettos would certainly help.”

A bipartisan and commonsensical study of U.S. disharmony, though somewhat lacking in originality.

Pub Date: June 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-947466-07-4

Page Count: 74

Publisher: American Leadership Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2017

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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