Impeccably researched but likely too dense for general readers.

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ROUGH COUNTRY

HOW TEXAS BECAME AMERICA'S MOST POWERFUL BIBLE-BELT STATE

A distinguished Princeton social sciences professor studies the fraught intersection of race, religion and ethnicity in Texas since Reconstruction.

Long considered the “buckle” of the Bible Belt, Texas has a history that is unique but that also speaks to the religious, racial and political dynamics “that have decidedly shaped America.” In this brilliantly detailed book, Wuthnow (Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America's Heartland, 2011, etc.) draws on newspapers, eyewitness accounts and archival material as well as sociological theory, showing how notions of self and other emerged through institution-building practices that helped define Texan (and ultimately, national) identity. In the beginning, the Texas frontier challenged settlers with “droughts, floods, weather-borne illnesses” and hostile natives. To survive, frontiersmen erected churches and schools that were themselves built on narratives that featured “heroes and villains about whom stories [could be] told and who serve[d] as positive or negative role models for future generations.” But these predominantly white organizations were impacted by complex, often contradictory attitudes toward race (a legacy of slavery), ethnicity (a legacy of Mexican domination) and, later, gender and sexual orientation. The Christian fundamentalism that emerged in the 1920s revealed the essentially conservative nature of religion and culture in Texas. Forty years later, it also became a major political force that helped determine the outcome of presidential elections and played major roles in debates on abortion and same-sex marriage. By the turn of the century, the evangelical Protestantism that had come to dominate the Texas religious scene promulgated “compassionate conservatism,” an ideology most notably espoused by George W. Bush. Promoting private, faith-based charitable institutions—many of which receive government funding—at the national level may be laudable. But as Wuthnow suggests, doing so may also give rise to ideas that reinforce the various forms of inequality that continue to beleaguer Texas, the South and American society as a whole.

Impeccably researched but likely too dense for general readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-691-15989-8

Page Count: 662

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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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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