A timely, engaging history of the United States from a progressive professor’s point of view.

THE LEFT HAS ALWAYS BEEN RIGHT

America’s “common history,” shared by liberals and conservatives alike, as seen through the battles and accomplishments of the American left.

Despite the immortal words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence held slaves. Many believed, in the words of James Madison, that “the better sort of people” should govern, and only Federalist property-holding men should have the right to vote. They also had a tough time dealing with what constituted a person. In a series of essays, Ericksen convincingly argues that, since 1776, progressive, not conservative, politics have had the upper hand in reducing the “hypocrisy” of our founding fathers by bringing rights “closer to reality” for the poor, women, African-Americans, immigrants and LGBT persons. Historically, conservatives have tended to limit equality and fairness for all, while liberals have advocated for “the two principles vital to American democracy”: equal protection and separation of church and state. Ericksen breaks down the landmark accomplishments (FDA, FDIC, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) that occurred during the three major periods of progressive change: from Jefferson to Jackson, Teddy to Franklin Roosevelt and Johnson’s Great Society. In a nation where “a portion of the American public has lost its mind,” respecting the laws of the free market and the laws of God above those passed by their own government, Ericksen explains how the Bible and Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” merged to supersede democracy and create the altar of American capitalism, as well as worker exploitation, monopolization, “socialism for the rich,” today’s tea party and our current government stalemate. Despite his hyperbolic title (used effectively throughout the book as a refrain and a “watchword,” Ericksen writes in a measured tone with thoughtful commentary backed up by a scholarly sway. The author fails to mention gray areas: Nixon pushing for comprehensive health reform, Clinton signing the Defense of Marriage Act (or his wife, as senator, voting to greenlight the war in Iraq). What might have come off as merely preaching, becomes teaching to the choir. Every once in awhile, all good choirs need to reassess and update their hymnals. Ericksen’s essays provide sufficient inspiration.

A timely, engaging history of the United States from a progressive professor’s point of view.

Pub Date: July 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477539248

Page Count: 188

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 44

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more