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HOW DID WE GET HERE?

FROM THEODORE ROOSEVELT TO DONALD TRUMP

Informed and passionate words to bring cheers from Never Trumpers and no reaction from Trump fans, who won’t read it.

A veteran American historian looks back at previous presidencies to see how we arrived at our current one.

Dallek—who has published works about Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon, among others—devotes chapters to all the presidents between Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, briefly summarizing their lives and times and assessing their strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, and failures. No fan of Donald Trump, the author emphasizes the previous presidents’ failures and sees how they have led to Trump, who gets his own damning chapter at the end. Dallek does a good job of seeing the strengths of presidents he does not otherwise admire, and he also explores the weaknesses in those he does admire. For example, he credits Nixon for his advances with China, and he chides FDR for deceptions about his health. Dallek makes clear that all the negative aspects of previous presidents have come home to roost in Trump: Theodore Roosevelt’s craving for attention and his self-adoration, Woodrow Wilson’s “exaggerated presidential promises,” Truman’s making war in Korea without Congressional approval, Dwight Eisenhower’s moves in Iran and Vietnam, JFK’s focus on image, LBJ’s “deceitfulness on foreign affairs,” Nixon’s fondness for imperiousness, Jimmy Carter’s ineffectualness, and Reagan’s use of celebrity as a political weapon and his displays of ignorance. In the final chapter, Dallek’s dagger emerges. Trump is a “retrograde force” whose “abusive language” shreds dignity from the office—as do his innumerable lies, distortions, and overall boorishness. “Making America great again,” writes the author, “hardly satisfies any standard for leading us into a better future.” The author shifts from the third person to the first from time to time to tell us about a relevant personal experience—e.g., his 1979 meeting with some Soviet historians in Moscow.

Informed and passionate words to bring cheers from Never Trumpers and no reaction from Trump fans, who won’t read it.

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287299-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A JEW

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

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Two bestselling authors engage in an enlightening back-and-forth about Jewishness and antisemitism.

Acho, author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, and Tishby, author of Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, discuss many of the searing issues for Jews today, delving into whether Jewishness is a religion, culture, ethnicity, or community—or all of the above. As Tishby points out, unlike in Christianity, one can be comfortably atheist and still be considered a Jew. She defines Judaism as a “big tent” religion with four main elements: religion, peoplehood, nationhood, and the idea of tikkun olam (“repairing the world through our actions”). She addresses candidly the hurtful stereotypes about Jews (that they are rich and powerful) that Acho grew up with in Dallas and how Jews internalize these antisemitic judgments. Moreover, Tishby notes, “it is literally impossible to be Jewish and not have any connection with Israel, and I’m not talking about borders or a dot on the map. Judaism…is an indigenous religion.” Acho wonders if one can legitimately criticize “Jewish people and their ideologies” without being antisemitic, and Tishby offers ways to check whether one’s criticism of Jews or Zionism is antisemitic or factually straightforward. The authors also touch on the deteriorating relationship between Black and Jewish Americans, despite their historically close alliance during the civil rights era. “As long as Jewish people get to benefit from appearing white while Black people have to suffer for being Black, there will always be resentment,” notes Acho. “Because the same thing that grants you all access—your skin color—is what grants us pain and punishment in perpetuity.” Finally, the authors underscore the importance of being mutual allies, and they conclude with helpful indexes on vernacular terms and customs.

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668057858

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Element

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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