Reagan emerges in strong and flattering light here, one of several scholarly books to take a favorably revisionist view of...

RONALD REAGAN AND HIS QUEST TO ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Was Ronald Reagan, intrepid wager of wars hot and cold, a secret peacenik? Young scholar Lettow argues in the affirmative.

Much as he presumed that tax cuts for the wealthy would stimulate the lower levels of the economy, Reagan apparently believed that his government could launch a massive arms buildup and thereby “attain deep cuts in nuclear weapons”; the trick was simply to outspend the Soviets until they quit. Historians and economists will argue over the relative merits of both approaches, but Lettow traces Reagan’s willingness to take such daring moves to his longstanding dislike of nuclear weapons and of those who encouraged such follies as Mutually Assured Destruction and preemptive first strikes: Robert McNamara, for instance, whom Reagan “publicly derided as ‘that efficient disaster,’ ” and even Henry Kissinger, who encouraged détente rather than reheated competition between the American and Soviet systems. Reagan, writes Lettow, had been active in antinuclear politics in his liberal Hollywood period, and he held to his commitment to abolish nuclear weapons even after his swing to the right. Reagan’s antinuclearism now took curious though internally consistent forms, the outgrowth of his view that only if the US had more nuclear weapons than anyone else—and, later, the protective Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) “Star Wars” shield—could nuclear war ever be averted. His views courted controversy: many ordinary citizens, of course, failed to see the merit of a new and improved arms race in the 1980s, while Reagan’s own Joint Chiefs of Staff pointedly failed to endorse Reagan’s vaunted MX missile initiative. Yet Reagan and his circle were convinced (as, it seems, is Lettow) that the Kremlin’s fears about SDI “were a principal factor driving the Soviets’ increased willingness to negotiate deep cuts in offensive nuclear forces”—though Mikhail Gorbachev’s rise to power may have had something to do with the change, too.

Reagan emerges in strong and flattering light here, one of several scholarly books to take a favorably revisionist view of his presidency in recent history. Reagan admirers will likely concur, though critics may wonder why his long-harbored plans were never really put in motion.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6307-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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