A valuable contribution to the conversation surrounding faith in America.

AMERICAN GRACE

HOW RELIGION DIVIDES AND UNITES US

Impressive study of American religious diversity.

Putnam (Public Policy/Harvard Univ.; Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, 2001, etc.) and Campbell (Political Science/Univ. of Notre Dame; Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life, 2006, etc.) begin with the obvious assertion that America is and has always been a religiously diverse nation, and seek to learn in what ways this is true today, and also why this diversity is not particularly problematic in modern America. The authors draw much of their data from the recent, comprehensive Faith Matters surveys, along with previous statistical surveys on faith in America. They punctuate the narrative with in-depth vignettes of particular congregations, ranging from a conservative Lutheran megachurch in Houston to a Reform synagogue near Chicago. The authors are interested in the entire religious history of America, but they focus primarily on the last half-century, using statistical research and anecdotal information to explain the decline of mainline Protestantism, the rise and leveling off of Evangelical Christianity, the demographic transformation of Catholicism and the recent rise of innovative movements such as the Emerging Church. Putnam and Campbell also examine religion in politics (and vice versa), the changing role of women in America’s faith landscape and religious activity as an indicator of civic involvement. The text is highly readable, and the authors are not afraid to come to clear conclusions. In describing the rarity with which partisan political views are actually trumpeted from the pulpit, the authors state bluntly, “Most people come to church to hear about God, not Caesar. Too much talk of Caesar risks driving them away.” The authors’ conclusion describes why, despite America’s religious diversity, “America is graced with the peaceful coexistence of both religious diversity and devotion.” Since Americans are intimately acquainted with others of diverse backgrounds more today than ever before, these relationships lead to acceptance of individuals as well as of groups of people.

A valuable contribution to the conversation surrounding faith in America.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6671-7

Page Count: 680

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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