An analytically rigorous and movingly impassioned introduction to a major national issue.



An astute study of the mounting student debt crisis in the United States, including its principal causes and possible remedies.

MacDonald, the author of Think Like a Dog (2019) and a corporate turnaround specialist, observes that the steady accumulation of student debt in America has become unsustainable. In 2018, the total amount surpassed $1.5 trillion with no signs of significant abatement. This staggering figure has caused extraordinary damage, both economically and socially. Homeownership has significantly diminished, and college graduates are putting off marriage and major purchases; they’re also seeking higher-paying jobs, which is a blow to the public-service sector. In this book, the author furnishes a meticulous and accessible account of the ballooning costs of college education, including the steep decline in government aid per student and the ever increasing budgets that are allocated to university administrators. MacDonald also ably sketches a synopsis of the history of tuition assistance from its beginnings as a function of private patronage to its transformation by the GI Bill following World War II. First-person accounts of struggles with college debt add a touching human element to his analysis by poignantly illustrating the real-world consequences of the crisis. One 18-year-old contributor tells of how the pinch of her financial aid predicament made her first week of college a “mental hell,” as her inability to pay for school made her feel “completely out of control.” MacDonald doesn’t limit his study to grim diagnoses of problems, though; he also expertly discusses the ways in which some colleges are conscientiously responding to the issue by, for example, offering no-loan financial aid packages. The author lucidly notes that the crisis is not merely a financial one, but also a societal one, in that it “limits an individual’s future choices” as well as the “availability of education as a path to a better life for many Americans.”

An analytically rigorous and movingly impassioned introduction to a major national issue.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-253-05143-1

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Indiana University Press

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.


A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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