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Lucid and original—of considerable interest to students of the African-American diaspora and American social and cultural...

A provocative study of urban African-American women a century and more ago.

Characterizing her work as an “account of the wayward,” literary scholar Hartman (English/Columbia Univ.; Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, 2007, etc.) examines the many ways in which (mostly) young black women tried to live their lives within the confines of new urban enclaves such as Harlem and West Philadelphia, from which Italian and Jewish immigrants had moved on and into which newcomers from the South were streaming. The population, writes the author, was young and in many cases disproportionately female, with liberating follow-on consequences. In one Philadelphia area, for instance, “more than half the women in the ward were single, widowed, or separated, and this imperiled the newly fledged black family”—imperiled it because so many of those unencumbered women were determined to live on their own terms, having begun a journey to freedom that was ongoing. They faced formidable resistance within their own communities even as they willingly took on new roles: “In bed,” Hartman writes of one lesbian couple, “it seemed like it was only the two of them in the world, in the vast stillness of the deep of night. In the few hours before dusk, there were no husbands to fear.” The author populates her pages with reformatory inmates, reformers, sex workers, and political activists such as Harlem Renaissance figure Claude McKay, “known less well for his indiscretions than for the ease and facility with which he cloaked them.” Sometimes Hartman’s rhetoric becomes a touch too high-flown, as if swept up in the exuberance of the fight for freedom, and interrogatives sometimes threaten to overwhelm declarative sentences. However, close attention to “beautiful experiments” and “the sexual geography of the black belt,” as two section titles have it, yield new insight into the truth of a central proposition: “No modern intelligent person was content merely existing. Sometimes it was good to take a chance.”

Lucid and original—of considerable interest to students of the African-American diaspora and American social and cultural history.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-28567-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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