PRICE WARS

HOW THE COMMODITIES MARKETS MADE OUR CHAOTIC WORLD

A fresh look at some of the mostly deeply held dogmas of economics, exploding many along the way.

A skillfully conducted tour of the role of price, once unmoored from reality, in adding chaos to an already chaotic world.

According to the efficient-market hypothesis, “the taken-for-granted orthodoxy of the economics profession,” the market will sort things out when it comes to setting prices, thanks to the ebb and flow of supply and demand, and prices themselves represent a gathering of bits of information “that create a spontaneous order all around us.” Yet, writes sociologist Russell, even as we live in a world governed by prices, this spontaneous order often dissolves into disorder. Part of the problem lies in the workings of modern “global finance capitalism,” in which prices are a function of the futures market—and those futures are now functions of derivatives, which dissolve the link between prices and real goods and instead trade in intangibles. The author begins with the example of bread, the price of which can be closely indexed to social chaos in places like 18th-century France—“in the eighty years before the Revolution, twenty-one were rocked by bread riots”—and the modern Middle East, with Egypt being both a leading importer of wheat and a polity unnaturally susceptible to spikes in bread prices and resulting social problems. Russell goes on to closely examine the dangers of speculation. Consider this curious case: Thanks to overly sensitive algorithms, with any news concerning the actress Anne Hathaway, the trading firm Berkshire Hathaway enjoys gains or suffers losses. Countries that are resource-rich are similarly blessed or cursed. “Oil-exporting countries are twice as likely to have outbreaks of civil war,” Russell writes, and when you peg the entire economy on the price of a barrel of oil, when prices fall, you get disasters such as Venezuela, “an allegedly socialist state that has its people living as pure market beings.”

A fresh look at some of the mostly deeply held dogmas of economics, exploding many along the way.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54585-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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