Heartbreaking and spellbinding dispatches from a country descending into madness.

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ABOVE THE DIN OF WAR

AFGHANS SPEAK ABOUT THEIR LIVES, THEIR COUNTRY, AND THEIR FUTURE—AND WHY AMERICA SHOULD LISTEN

Veteran journalist Eichstaedt (Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World's Deadliest Place, 2011, etc.) delivers from Afghanistan a dismal report on that country’s continued disintegration and decline and the failure of U.S. efforts to prevent it.

When U.S. and coalition forces entered Afghanistan in 2001 and defeated the brutal Taliban regime, hopes ran high for peace and prosperity. Neither, reports the author, has occurred. Rather, Afghanistan remains a country “crumbling at the edges and collapsing at its core.” Eichstaedt interviewed Afghans from all walks of life: government officials, Taliban leaders, shopkeepers, mullahs, would-be suicide bombers, victims of self-immolation and others. Afghanistan remains among the poorest nations of the world, and the Taliban grows stronger as a corrupt government dominated by regional and ethnic warlords does little to aid the Afghan people. Women remain brutally oppressed, and chaos reigns: “The fighting, the death, the destruction was random and it was everywhere.” Eichstaedt places much of the blame for this mess on the U.S. and its strategy of placing military objectives above development. Among the Afghans Eichstaedt interviewed, an ambiguous view of the U.S. emerged. Some feared the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2014 would surely lead to the return of Taliban control and civil war. Yet many others fiercely hated the Americans and other foreign forces, seeing them as occupiers and conquerors under whom Afghan life had only grown worse. While he does discuss possible strategies for improving the situation—a real and sustained development plan coupled with a continued U.S. military presence, for instance—Eichstaedt sees no easy fixes—nor do most of the Afghans he gives voice to in this work of skilled and brutally honest journalism.

Heartbreaking and spellbinding dispatches from a country descending into madness.

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1613745151

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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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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