An often nuanced analysis of the prevalence of American racism.
Awards & Accolades
An independent scholar and consultant explores the roots of White supremacy in the United States.
As a White woman with “a relatively comfortable life,” Fierro notes that this survey of racist ideology “wasn’t an easy book to write” and that she doesn’t “expect it to be an easy read” for other middle-class White people. Taking the advice of Black activists since the 1960s, she focuses on challenging White people’s beliefs, and her intended audience is specifically progressive young people who are at a loss for how to address systemic racism. The bulk of the book provides a historical overview of the roots of White supremacy, covering major events from 1492 through 2020, from Pope Alexander VI’s institutionalization of the “Doctrine of Discovery” and Europe’s embrace of race-based slavery to Jim Crow and the racist persecution of the war on drugs. The figures most often associated with American racism certainly make appearances, including enslavers, the Ku Klux Klan, and Southern sheriffs. However, the book also emphasizes the ways in which some White activists have historically perpetuated White supremacy. Helen Parrish, a White woman from Philadelphia whose activism centered on housing reform, for instance, has traditionally been portrayed as a hero of the nascent progressive movement in the late 19th century. Yet, in Fierro’s convincing analysis, Parrish’s career is defined by her “condescending saviorism,” as seen in her private diaries, which are rife with examples of her belief in her superiority to non-White tenants and her judgmental intrusion into their lives. The book’s retellings of the stories of such icons are the book’s strong suit, as is Fierro’s emphasis on the historic phenomenon of “White Women Myopia,” demonstrating how “systems of ‘help’ established by white women didn’t produce equality for people of color.”
Fierro, who has a doctorate in African American studies from Temple University, has a firm command of this history, and she supports her work with more than 500 citations. Although academic historians won’t find much that’s new in the book’s analysis, which does not fully and methodologically engage with archival research, it more than accomplishes the author’s goal of providing an accessible history for general readers. This effort toward engagement is accompanied by a down-to-earth writing style and an ample assortment of full-color original art by Fierro and illustrator Sgueglia as well as diagrams, charts, and other visual aids. The book will likely show many White readers the ways in which America’s racist history resonates in their present-day lives. Along the way, it provides actionable agendas for change, which tracks well with Fierro’s career as a consultant whose work centers on ethics, leadership, and social justice and with her own willingness to address her own “internalized racism.” Oddly, though, the book accepts a common right-wing trope that overstates the prevalence of leftist “cancel culture” that allegedly targets the nonwoke and, in doing so, uses some of the same talking points that people opposed to anti-racist work often use.An often nuanced analysis of the prevalence of American racism.
Pub Date: May 24, 2022
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Collective Power Media
Review Posted Online: June 15, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
Share your opinion of this book
by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
Share your opinion of this book
by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2016
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
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
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
Share your opinion of this book
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!