This crisp, clean book won’t be the last word on the perplexing events in Iraq, but for now it’s one of the better ones.

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ARROWS OF THE NIGHT

AHMAD CHALABI'S LONG JOURNEY TO TRIUMPH IN IRAQ

Emmy-winning 60 Minutes producer Bonin tells the story of America’s (mis)adventures in Iraq through the lens of Ahmad Chalabi.

Chalabi is a fascinating figure, and the book is as much a biography of this persistent, intelligent, savvy and manipulative man as it is a history of how America became mired in Iraq. Chalabi was born into one of Iraq’s wealthiest and most influential families, and he lived a life of almost storybook privilege, at least until 1958, when the military overthrew the country’s monarchy. The Chalabi family was particularly vulnerable, as they represented the lavish success of the few in a country where most people had no access to electricity, potable water or sewage systems. The fact that the revolutionaries were overwhelmingly Sunni only added to the political dynamic and to young Chalabi’s resentments. When Saddam Hussein rose to power, Chalabi lived in comfortable exile abroad, always planning to return to topple the Hussein regime. As the United States became increasingly embroiled in events in Iraq, at first in support of Hussein’s regime and later as its foe, Chalabi always seemed to be at the center of the storm, maneuvering himself into positions of influence and power, often outsmarting organizations such as the CIA along the way. As with many biographies, the book occasionally suffers from myopia as all of the events are seen through the lens of Chalabi. Nonetheless, Bonin offers a welcome contribution to the growing library of books on modern Iraq.

This crisp, clean book won’t be the last word on the perplexing events in Iraq, but for now it’s one of the better ones.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-52473-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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