A serious, openhanded discussion of contemporary American politics that forgoes specificity.


A comprehensive approach to public policy formulation oriented around the defense of inalienable rights. 

The Declaration of Independence famously announces inalienable rights as the natural foundation of civil society and the ultimate limit to governmental authority, but it doesn’t clearly articulate the socio-economic conditions for the equal exercise of those rights. Debut author Public (a nom de plume) argues that the U.S.’s promise of equality has been undermined by a failure to provide equal opportunity, a misstep that rises to a dereliction of duty: “Like many other countries, America has a culture of abuse in which abuses of and threatening attitudes toward inalienable rights seem almost commonplace.” The author catalogs typical abuses that span contemporary political issues, including environmental policy, fiscal management, poverty, immigration, foreign policy, and religious freedom. Public continues a long-standing progressive intellectual tradition in America of focusing on the conditions that allow for the meaningful protection of rights, a departure from a more threadbare version that extends from the British philosopher John Locke. The author avers that rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness logically include the concomitant rights to a “healthful lifestyle” and a “healthful living wage,” which lead, respectively, to single-payer universal health care and minimum annual incomes for the financially disadvantaged. Overall, Public’s public policy analysis—which carefully balances the demands of individual liberty with a proper deference to the common good—makes that liberty both morally defensible and meaningful. The author’s study is admirably bipartisan and free of ideological baggage. For example, despite his avowed personal distaste for guns, he acknowledges the importance of a right to self-defense. Also, he manages to navigate complex policy debates accessibly but empirically, citing statistical evidence when appropriate. However, this brief work far too ambitiously attempts to cover the totality of political conundrums and so has no choice but to often remain hypergeneral and simplistic. For example, there’s virtually no serious discussion of the criteria for a “healthful lifestyle,” but nevertheless, he offers a very specific target for a minimum living wage. 

A serious, openhanded discussion of contemporary American politics that forgoes specificity. 

Pub Date: March 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5320-1045-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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