In this entertaining book, Seligman ably demystifies the stereotypes in an age rife with discrimination and unchecked police...

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TONG WARS

THE UNTOLD STORY OF VICE, MONEY, AND MURDER IN NEW YORK'S CHINATOWN

A new history of turf wars between rival New York City Chinatown brotherhoods from the turn of the century to the Depression reveals the shabby justice and bigotry practiced on immigrants by American authorities.

A journalist and “China hand” proficient in the languages, Seligman has been able to interpret historic archives—e.g., New York City newspapers, indexing of census records—regarding Chinatown as previous historians have not. As a result, his work is richly textured and avoids black-and-white judgments regarding the tongs, or secret brotherhoods, which served a vital function in helping advocate for and protect the fragile community of Chinese immigrants in the wake of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The author examines the beginning migrants mostly from California in the 1870s, such as the early Hong Kong–born merchant and community leader Wo Kee, who first staked out a general store and boardinghouse at 34 Mott St., just south of Canal in an Irish neighborhood of cheap rents. According to Seligman, the Chinese gravitated toward mutual aid societies as a way to re-create the hierarchical structures they knew back in the old country, and they also needed conduits to deal with the corrupt Tammany Hall bosses and police. The new organization, Loon Yee Tong, was established by spokesman Tom Lee in 1880 and gradually morphed into the On Leong Tong, which took control of the vice dens, including lucrative enterprises of gambling, prostitution, and opium. Meanwhile, another brotherhood, the Hip Sing Tong, originally from San Francisco, was muscling its way into the Chinatown turf, extorting businesses. The author dutifully follows the tit-for-tat wars between the two tongs over the next three decades, involving such illustrious kingpins as Charlie Boston and Mock Duck, and yet the notorious dens of inequity in Chinatown comprised a small percentage of the overall violence prevalent in the rest of the city.

In this entertaining book, Seligman ably demystifies the stereotypes in an age rife with discrimination and unchecked police abuse.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-56227-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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