Thoroughly convincing—and one more reason for the governments of the West, including the Clinton administration, to be...

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THE BURNING TIGRIS

THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE AND AMERICA’S RESPONSE

An eloquent account of Turkey’s long campaign to rid itself of Armenians—and far longer campaign to disavow any responsibility for crimes against humanity.

During the 1890s, writes memoirist (Black Dog of Fate, 1997) and poet Balakian, Sultan Abdul Hamid II launched a campaign of extermination against Armenia’s Christians, killing about 200,000 in a two-year period and setting “the template for most of the genocide that followed in the twentieth century.” The Ottoman Empire’s resorting to state-sponsored murder against the Armenians was not without precedent; a few years earlier, the same sultan had ordered the massacre of thousands of Bulgarians who had been pressing for independence. Yet this crime was unprovoked, and it outraged the world; in the US, millions of dollars were raised for Armenian relief, and at the turn of the century nearly every American schoolchild could find Armenia on the map. The fall of the Ottomans and the rise of the Young Turks brought further troubles for the Armenians, for whereas the Ottomans had ruled a multiethnic empire, the Ataturk regime championed Turkish nationalism. Faced with revolutionary movements in the Balkans, the Young Turks justified oppression of the Armenians as a measure to stave off a two-front attack; “in the Turkish mind,” writes Balakian, “the struggle to keep the Balkans was never far from the Armenian Question.” This time the death toll was far higher; Balakian estimates that between 1.2 and 1.3 million Armenians were killed in the years between 1915 and 1922, though some historians put the figure at 1.5 million. Again, writes Balakian, American sentiment was with the Armenians, many survivors among whom emigrated to the US. But in the years since, despite the Turkish government’s crimes against its people, the Armenian genocide has been gone unacknowledged, the product of a “sinister . . . Turkish campaign of denial . . . that is perhaps singular in the annals of history”—a campaign that, Balakian says, successfully persuaded Bill Clinton to kill a House measure to commemorate the genocide “for the sake of ‘national security.’ ”

Thoroughly convincing—and one more reason for the governments of the West, including the Clinton administration, to be ashamed.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-019840-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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