A dense, carefully rendered work of minute, memorable detail.



One woman's personal agony reflects the enormous chasm of inequality between the sexes in Pakistan.

A Pakistani journalist and human rights activist now living in America, Zakaria tells the disheartening tale of Pakistan’s history of military rule and Islamist misogynist oppression through the stories of her own family members, especially that of her Aunt Amina, who was forced to accept her husband’s marriage to a second wife in 1986. A clan of Kokani Muslims from Bombay who migrated to Karachi in 1950, just after partition, Zakaria’s family lived in a close-knit community that kept largely to itself within the strangeness of the new country, where the military was exalted above all and women first voted in the election of 1970, which brought Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to power in an ethnically divided polity. Amina was the first of her family to attend college at that time, when the country erupted in ethnic war between East and West Pakistan and Bangladesh emerged from the ruins. An arranged marriage to Sohail promised stability and prosperity, yet no children arrived after a decade; Sohail met a woman at his bank, added a floor to his house, and installed Amina at the top and his new wife on the floor below. A week-on–week-off schedule alternating with the new wife became the humiliating compromise for Amina in her status as “half a wife,” scandalizing the community and disgracing the family. Nonetheless, the strictures of tradition prevailed, much as they did for another tragic daughter of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, who wed a Sindh landlord and attempted to rise above the feudal expectations of a woman of her class and lead her country fearlessly into the modern era. Zakaria chisels away chronologically at this relentless, cyclical history, and while readers continue to hope for a glimmer of positivity for these heroines, it does not come.

A dense, carefully rendered work of minute, memorable detail.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0807003367

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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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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