A rambling but sometimes on-target critique of kleptocratic public- and private-sector elites.



A former senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace deplores America’s willingness to ignore homegrown corruption that undermines democracy.

Anyone who has followed the outbreaks of COVID-19 at U.S. meatpacking plants may find one fact in this book especially chilling: In the anti-regulatory spirit of the Trump administration, the Department of Agriculture levied on such facilities one-tenth of the fines in 2018 that it had imposed in 2013 for rules violations. Chayes casts the slashed penalties as evidence of an alarming trend: America is turning a blind eye to the corruption of kleptocratic elites who—with an audacity unseen since the Gilded Age—enrich themselves through public- and private-sector (if not outright criminal) alliances. In an intermittently enlightening but digressive mix of history, analysis, and polemic, the author shows how the fat cats consolidate their power partly by shuttling among jobs at universities, government or nonprofit agencies, and corporations or top-tier law firms like Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis. Moving from John D. Rockefeller’s era to the present, Chayes serves up some piquant details and anecdotes—e.g., one involving Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s clerkship for Anthony Kennedy: “This is the same Justice Kennedy whose son Justin was President Trump’s loan officer at Deutsche Bank, and whose early retirement gave Trump a surprise Supreme Court slot to fill.” Much of the story of how the U.S. sank into this ethics maw has been told before—see Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, and Zephyr Teachout’s Corruption in America—and Chayes’ effort to update the tale belabors metaphors from the Bible and Greek mythology and wanders far afield to Nigeria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Ultimately, however, this book supports the view of a federal prosecutor who told Chayes that today, “only bad criminals can get convicted”: “And I don’t mean dangerous criminals. I mean people who are just really bad at being corrupt.”

A rambling but sometimes on-target critique of kleptocratic public- and private-sector elites.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65485-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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