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THE RECKONING

WHAT BLACKS OWE EACH OTHER

Robinson is a sharp storyteller, jarring and fascinating as he goes, which makes his message of personal responsibility, of...

The story of a man who is making a significant difference to young African-Americans, told within the framework of a general condemnation of African-American circumstances in today's America, from activist Robinson (The Debt, 2000, etc.).

What can be done for today’s young black men—a truly endangered generation—in America today? Two years back, Robinson suggested that America ought to make some financial reparations to African-Americans for the legacy of dysfunctional families, poor education and health acre, poverty, and prospects not worth a dime, the modern day pain and hopelessness engendered by old policies as well as the institutionalization of racism, that have been that have been the African-American life for the past few hundred years. But reparations, even if understood an act of national survival, will not have an impact on the people in jeopardy now, says Robinson. That will be the task of African-Americans themselves, and they better get started. Certainly the nurturing experience starts with children at home, where the elemental demands on personal responsibility are first posed. But there is a lot of wreckage out there and a lot of salvaging to be done. As an example, Robinson unfurls the life story of Peewee Kirkland, a man who now runs a center delivering love and caring for African-American youths, and a decent shot of political, social, and cultural awareness. The tumultuous life he led prior to his current work gives him a credibility demonstrated by his effect upon New Child Lynch, another man destined to wreak havoc on his society rather than be a valuable contribution to its betterment. Robinson takes particular care to explain the workings of the correctional system that housed Kirkland for seven years and was likely to take in Lynch as well, as a “catch-and-cage rural-development juggernaut,” a grotesque pork-barrel scheme that profits vastly by the incarceration of African-Americans.

Robinson is a sharp storyteller, jarring and fascinating as he goes, which makes his message of personal responsibility, of the kind of sacrifice and vision that have always been in short supply, a welcome obligation.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2002

ISBN: 0-525-94625-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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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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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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