Most interesting as a clear-eyed assessment of the passion of Obama, or what remains of it, and also as a kind of elegy for...

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CONFIDENCE MEN

WALL STREET, WASHINGTON, AND THE EDUCATION OF A PRESIDENT

Is it too early for a postmortem on Barack Obama? Not for Pulitzer winner Suskind (The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism, 2008), who offers a damning picture of the president as a Man Who Could Have Been.

 The author characterizes Obama as a politician who blew a golden opportunity to deliver sweeping reform to a manipulative financial industry just when its bloated belly was turned to the sky. Although Obama was confident of his abilities as a candidate—having been prepped on the coming crisis by early supporters on Wall Street—as president it was a different story. According to Suskind, he was unsure where to turn for assistance, as angels and demons fought for his soul. The angels included Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, who became “the nation’s town crier on the subject of bankruptcy and debt” and former Fed chair Paul Volcker, who advised Obama to take the “tough love” approach to the financial industry, even if it meant letting some of the dinosaurs die. The demons included Treasury chief Timothy Geithner, Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and the egomaniacal National Economic Council head Larry Summers, who all counseled that any major initiative could shake “confidence in the system.” Not the most compelling explainer of the hard stuff—collateralized debt obligations, repurchase agreements, derivatives, credit-default swaps—Suskind sprinkles the final pages with a dim, faint hope that Obama has learned from his mistakes and regained his old passion. Whether that proves true or not, his own “Occupy Wall Street” moment has passed.

Most interesting as a clear-eyed assessment of the passion of Obama, or what remains of it, and also as a kind of elegy for an old financial world in which there was at least a semblance of ethical standards.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-142925-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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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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