Bergstein’s book is an informative, well-written, and entertaining window onto another way of life.

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BRILLIANCE AND FIRE

A BIOGRAPHY OF DIAMONDS

Bergstein (Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us, 2012) provides a history of diamond mining and marketing that reveals the deadly world behind this magical stone.

Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) must get the credit and blame for cornering the modern-day market when diamonds were discovered in South Africa. After absorbing the Kimberley Mine, Rhodes dominated every aspect of the diamond industry, from mining to distribution to marketing. He bought up and bought out others, and when diamonds were found in Tanzania, Botswana, Lesotho and off the coast of Namibia, he controlled them, as well. His business plan was to control output and stockpile stones to ensure the rarity of the gems and raise prices. He had a complete monopoly by 1888, and his company became De Beers. Rhodes was the prime minister of the Cape Colony, founder of Rhodesia, and the author of the injustices of apartheid. In addition to this history, Bergstein has great fun exploring the customers for these diamonds, whether they were royalty, Hollywood stars, or rappers. Probably the most interesting part of the book deals with the jewelers and the crafters who knew their customers and invented new ways to adorn them. The great designers—Cartier, Tiffany, Harry Winston, and Bulgari—often took chances, and they paid off. De Beers’ best move came in 1938 when they hired N.W. Ayer & Son to advertise their product: the company came up with the idea of diamond engagement rings and the slogan “a diamond is forever.” De Beers couldn’t control the market forever, however, and soon the Japanese, the Australians, and the Canadians were nibbling away. Competition, the advent of synthetic and imitation diamonds, and the conflict (or blood) diamond crisis all play a part in this fascinating story, well told by the author.

Bergstein’s book is an informative, well-written, and entertaining window onto another way of life.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-232377-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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