A simple, stunning study of the power of respect to forge salutary bonds between unlikely partners. Lawrence-Lightfoot, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (I—ve Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation,1994), offers penetrating portraits of six individuals in sundry professions who share the ability to traverse social and economic barriers in reaching others. Lawrence-Lightfoot focuses not only on the extraordinary work that these people do, but on their personal backgrounds and possible motivating factors, as well. Jennifer Dohrn, a nurse-midwife, directs a Childbearing Center that she founded in New York City’s South Bronx. Determined to empower poor women who have been neglected by traditional medicine, Dohrn oversees a staff of seven midwives, along with staffers who serve as liaisons to the community. The key to Dohrn’s success is her admiration and respect for the struggling families she meets daily. And the support that she offers others helps restore her after the painful death of her activist husband, who was killed in Cape Town, South Africa. Just as Dohrn encourages the women with whom she interacts to question authority, Kay Cottle similarly challenges her middle and high school students. Willing to take risks and share personal stories with young people, Cottle successfully forges a bond with them that allows them to share their experiences and insights in return. In her respect for her students, Cottle constantly tries new approaches that “urge students to confront ideas from a variety of perspectives and appeal to a number of senses.” While most of the professionals portrayed came from educated, nurturing backgrounds, there are exceptions. Bill Wallace, an Episcopal priest, pastoral psychotherapist, and AIDS activist, attributes his caring for the disenfranchised to his having grown up in chaos within a distressed family. Replete with a bibliography entitled “Some Roots of Respect” (with source materials as diverse as Shakespeare, Buber, Kant and contemporary therapists on self-esteem), Lawrence-Lightfoot’s elegantly written study enlightens and invigorates. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7382-0093-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Perseus

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...


Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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