An urgent message to a beleaguered party and distressed voters.




An argument for why a progressive Democrat is crucial for saving the country.

American Prospect co-founder and co-editor Kuttner (Social Policy/Brandeis Univ.; Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?, 2018, etc.) offers a cogent, hard-hitting analysis of current threats to democracy, calling for the election of a progressive Democrat as president in 2020, someone “with a narrative, a manifesto, a rallying of the citizenry, and a set of policies at least as radical as those of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Like many other recent political analysts—Timothy Snyder (On Tyranny), David Runciman (How Democracy Ends), and Nancy MacLean (Democracy in Chains), to name a few—Kuttner sees Trump as “a sociopathic tyrant” who must be removed from office, if not through impeachment, then surely in the next presidential election. But, he asserts, “American democracy has been fraying for decades” because of “the crowding out of civic participation by money and by media, and the concentration of wealth that in turn concentrates political power.” In the last 40 years, Americans have seen their economic prospects diminish and cynicism about politics increase. Kuttner disputes the idea that Democrats need to be more conciliatory (Barack Obama’s efforts to extend olive branches was futile, he insists) and to appeal to some imagined moderate constituency. “A large majority of Democrats are substantively progressive” on issues such as minimum wage, a large infrastructure program, free public universities, and universal health care. In the 2018 midterms, “many Democrats did win as progressives, and in unlikely places.” The fight for democracy, though, will not be won simply by reclaiming the White House. The author delineates important themes for a new president: restoring America’s role “as a beacon of liberty, common purpose, and broadly shared prosperity”; rebuilding domestic industry and infrastructure; regulating capitalism; expanding the Supreme Court to override the conservative lock; ensuring economic security for future generations; offering access to health care for all; and addressing income inequality. Policy strategies, he argues, must supplement “the most difficult and urgent challenge”: “to damp down the hatreds so cynically stoked by Donald Trump.”

An urgent message to a beleaguered party and distressed voters. 

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-324-00365-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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 clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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