A provocative argument that runs counter to popular sentiment and conventional wisdom.

THE JUNGLE GROWS BACK

AMERICA AND OUR IMPERILED WORLD

Why a strong, interventionist America remains the world’s best hope against the return of international chaos.

Washington Post columnist and Brookings Institution senior fellow Kagan (The World America Made, 2012, etc.), who served in the State Department during the 1980s, sees the United States in retreat from its responsibility at a time when its leadership is needed most. “If Obama’s policies put a dent in the liberal world order, Trump’s statements and actions have been driving a stake through it,” he writes. “For if the United States cannot be relied upon to provide the secure environment in which members of the liberal world order can flourish, and if in addition it is going to be jealous and spiteful and demand ‘wins’ when they do flourish, then the United States starts to look more like a rogue superpower than a nation defending any order of any kind.” The 20th century elevated America into a unique position through a combination of the country’s ideals and power and geography; to abdicate that position, argues Kagan, would be to fall from “a relative paradise” into a natural disorder of darkness and chaos. In the wake of Vietnam and Iraq, both of which the author sees as strategically sound if unfortunate in outcome, America is less likely to see its responsibilities extend beyond its borders. If America pulls back, Russia, Japan, China, Germany, or another nation might rush to fill that vacuum. Peace isn’t a given, and neither is democracy; they must be guarded and defended. Kagan’s argument should appeal to unrepentant Cold Warriors and to others who believe that might makes right where America’s place in the world is concerned. Yet the metaphor for the title is unfortunate, implying (more strongly than the text does) that without the primacy of developed nations, the hordes of barbarians will infest the planet with their jungle ways.

A provocative argument that runs counter to popular sentiment and conventional wisdom.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52165-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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