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BEHIND ENEMY LINES

CONSERVATIVE COMMUNIQUES FROM LEFT-WING NEW YORK

The crisp clarity of this collection doesn’t make up for its tendentious simplifications.

A veteran political writer assembles a collection of essays defending conservative principles.

Keating has had an impressive and long career as a conservative essayist; over the course of three decades, he’s written more than 8,000 pieces for various outlets, including the National Review. In this lengthy volume of nearly 700 pages, he collects a sampling of his works, which generally read like newspaper editorials—pithy, lucidly argued, stridently confident, and singularly partisan. He covers a remarkably broad landscape of intellectual ground on subjects such as free enterprise, Catholicism, President Donald Trump, and the estate tax, among many others. Keating is at his best when tackling the issue that introduced him to the world of conservative thought: the benefits of the free market. On this topic, he provides clearly articulated and snappily brief examples of common arguments. Some columns are too narrow to inspire broad interest, such as one about property taxes for Long Island golf courses. Overall, though, Keating’s writing has a pugnacious charm, especially when he rails against the largely liberal culture of New York City. However, the anthology as a whole lacks philosophical depth and nuance, and it won’t convince those who don’t already share the author’s political sensibilities; his undeveloped contention that liberalism is incoherent, for instance, won’t change any minds. He also provides little reflection on how his conservatism holds together theoretically and doesn’t contribute very much to ongoing debates about the incompatibility of free market individualism, limited government, and a Christian conception of a common good. This limitation is particularly disappointing, as today’s conservatism is in dire need of such disambiguation; instead, Keating portrays, without adequate argument, it as “traditional, American and Reagan-esque, firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian values, Western Civilization, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and some essential ideas and institutions, such as the Christian Church, the intrinsic value of each individual, the role of the family, freedom and individual responsibility, limited government, and free enterprise and free markets.”

The crisp clarity of this collection doesn’t make up for its tendentious simplifications.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 732

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2020

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UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A JEW

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

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Two bestselling authors engage in an enlightening back-and-forth about Jewishness and antisemitism.

Acho, author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, and Tishby, author of Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, discuss many of the searing issues for Jews today, delving into whether Jewishness is a religion, culture, ethnicity, or community—or all of the above. As Tishby points out, unlike in Christianity, one can be comfortably atheist and still be considered a Jew. She defines Judaism as a “big tent” religion with four main elements: religion, peoplehood, nationhood, and the idea of tikkun olam (“repairing the world through our actions”). She addresses candidly the hurtful stereotypes about Jews (that they are rich and powerful) that Acho grew up with in Dallas and how Jews internalize these antisemitic judgments. Moreover, Tishby notes, “it is literally impossible to be Jewish and not have any connection with Israel, and I’m not talking about borders or a dot on the map. Judaism…is an indigenous religion.” Acho wonders if one can legitimately criticize “Jewish people and their ideologies” without being antisemitic, and Tishby offers ways to check whether one’s criticism of Jews or Zionism is antisemitic or factually straightforward. The authors also touch on the deteriorating relationship between Black and Jewish Americans, despite their historically close alliance during the civil rights era. “As long as Jewish people get to benefit from appearing white while Black people have to suffer for being Black, there will always be resentment,” notes Acho. “Because the same thing that grants you all access—your skin color—is what grants us pain and punishment in perpetuity.” Finally, the authors underscore the importance of being mutual allies, and they conclude with helpful indexes on vernacular terms and customs.

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668057858

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Element

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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