Bracing, and sure to be controversial, this is a unique and essential record of our times.

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BAGHDAD BURNING II

MORE GIRL BLOG FROM IRAQ

The second installment of Riverbend’s incisive, salty, impassioned observations from war-torn Baghdad.

Baghdad Burning (2005) is a collection of blog postings by a 24-year-old, middle-class Iraqi woman who calls herself Riverbend. This sequel picks up the story in October 2004—before the world knew that Americans would re-elect George Bush. Just before the election, Riverhead prophesies that should Bush return to the White House, life would worsen not only for Iraqis, but also for Americans, whose national image is “tarnished world-wide.” Indeed, much of this is devoted to Riverbend’s fury about the American occupation of Iraq. She bluntly says that although Iraqis felt sympathy when the Twin Towers collapsed, “9/11 is getting old.” The author suggests the war has moved into a different phase—now, instead of being assaulted with smart missiles, Iraqis are besieged by American media, by television and radio reports that are deceptively sanitized. She tartly notes the vagaries and obfuscations of political speech, and she has little patience for the euphemistic lingua franca of war: “What exactly are precision attacks?” she pleads, after Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld invoke the phrase. “How can you be precise in a city like Samarra or in the slums of Sadir City?” Throughout all her political analysis, Riverbend sprinkles reminders of the day-to-day realties of life in Baghdad—the water problems, the lack of electricity, the daily explosions near her home, the endless gasoline queues. Riverbend’s musings will make it impossible for readers to hold on to some cardboard cutout notion of “an Iraqi.” Here is a practicing Muslim woman who disdains suicide bombers but understands how people are driven to such extremes, who can’t stand the fundamentalist leadership of Iran, who simply wants Iraq to be stable, prosperous and peaceful.

Bracing, and sure to be controversial, this is a unique and essential record of our times.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-55861-529-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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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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