An impassioned call for an “overarching movement” for justice.




How poor people are being punished for their poverty.

Supported by compelling evidence of endemic injustice, Edelman (Law and Public Policy/Georgetown Univ. Law Center; So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, 2012, etc.), faculty director of Georgetown’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, presents a hard-hitting argument for reform. Joining critiques offered by writers such as Chris Hayes (A Colony in a Nation), Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow), and Matthew Desmond (Evicted), Edelman underscores the ways in which impoverished individuals are victimized by the criminal justice system. “Low income people are arrested for minor violations that are only annoyances for people with means,” he writes, and they face penalties they cannot afford to pay. Failure to pay results in additional fines, repeated driver’s license suspensions, and incarceration. Shockingly, 43 states charge for having a public defender. In addition, to accrue revenue, states have increased fines for minor infractions. Fines for speeding tickets have soared to $300 or more. Students who commit low-level offenses often are sent into the criminal system rather than to the principal’s office. To monitor probation, 13 states employ for-profit companies that impose high fees, and 44 states charge offenders for the costs of their own probation or parole, which include fees for electronic bracelets, drug testing, alcohol monitoring, driving classes, and home supervision. Mentally ill inmates receive no treatment or at best minimal attention; Edelman cites Corizon, “the largest for-profit mental health provider in the country for prisons, jails and detention centers,” as particularly egregious. After documenting case after shocking case in the first part of the book, Edelman proposes that the real solution to injustice lies in ending poverty: “prenatal care for all, child development for all children, first-class education for all, decent jobs and effective work supports, affordable housing, health and mental health, lawyers as needed, safe neighborhoods,” healthy communities, and “social, racial and gender justice.” He presents case histories of achievements in several communities, fueling his optimism.

An impassioned call for an “overarching movement” for justice.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62097-163-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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