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THE GREAT ESCAPE

A TRUE STORY OF FORCED LABOR AND IMMIGRANT DREAMS IN AMERICA

A searing exposé of corporate criminality and its governmental enablers.

Harrowing account of a latter-day revolt of people who were essentially enslaved—in 21st-century America.

Following Hurricane Katrina, the shipbuilding steelyards of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast needed welders and pipe fitters. India had many such workers, and a local so-called immigration lawyer teamed up with a couple of recruiters, one a former police officer, and, for a hefty fee, promised green cards to anyone who traveled to America. As immigrant rights activist Soni writes, one of those workers, who had spent years as a laborer in the United Arab Emirates, saw through the scheme, realizing that “any seasoned migrant worker knew that America let in only those with elite educations.” Still, with promised wages approaching $54,000 per year, he bit, landing in a work camp where the pay was not as promised, the food was execrable, and the treatment of workers was straight out of the antebellum South, complete with an updated version of a slave catcher. Said one overseer, “Our Indians have been dropping with sickness like flies.” Because the workers’ complaints were ignored, some decided to orchestrate the “great escape” of Soni’s title and, with the author’s help, organized a protest that took them on a march on Washington to demand justice. Writing with a sharp sense of irony, Soni recounts how the Department of Justice flubbed the initial investigations while Immigrations and Customs Enforcement actively colluded with the Mississippi shipbuilders against the workers. Soni and the workers hit plenty of dead ends as they tried to enlist the support of the liberal lions on Capitol Hill since “we were stuck in the minds of their congressional staffers as another ‘Interest group.’ ” In the end, even though the workers exposed “one of the largest human trafficking schemes in US history,” no charges were brought against the company or the scammers, a maddening conclusion to Soni’s agile account.

A searing exposé of corporate criminality and its governmental enablers.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781643750088

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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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

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