by Rebecca Solnit ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 11, 2014
In her 2006 commencement talk at the University of California, Solnit implored new graduates to remake the universe by...
In her latest collection of previously published essays, Solnit (Men Explain Things to Me, 2014, etc.) explores troubled and troubling spaces and places that illuminate her concerns about community and power.
How, asks the author, do individuals express their sense of connection to one another when they respond to disasters, such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the BP oil spill, and the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan? How do communities come together for their common good? What social and political forces create a truly civil society? Solnit’s travels have taken her around the world, including Kyoto and Fukushima, Iceland, Mexico, Detroit and New Orleans: “Wherever I went,” she writes, “I remained preoccupied with democracy and justice and popular power, with how change can be wrought in the streets and by retelling the story, with the power of stories to get things wrong as well as right…and with the beauties of light, space, and solidarity.” Traversing time as well as space, she reflects on the social activism of the 1960s and ’70s that gave rise to communes, organic farms, and queer rights and feminist movements; sometimes chaotic and unfocused, this activism, she believes, sparked later progressive changes. Solnit is a fan of peaceful revolutions, which makes her impatient with the passivity that she observed in Iceland, where people seem intimidated in the face of severe environmental problems. Argentina, she notes, stands as a strong example of a politically engaged society uniting in protest in the face of economic disaster. Astounded by Icelandic acquiescence, Solnit urges her own contemporaries to take action on such issues as climate change, drought, urban blight, the tainting of soil by heavy metals, irresponsible oil drilling and the use of toxic dispersants.In her 2006 commencement talk at the University of California, Solnit implored new graduates to remake the universe by changing stories of the past and reinventing stories for the future; that advice informs these thoughtful, eloquent and often inspiring essays.
Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014
Page Count: 360
Publisher: Trinity Univ. Press
Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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