An insightful analysis of the rise and reign of Reagan; a somewhat less successful explication of the meaning of Reaganism...



A HISTORY, 1974-2008

A distinguished center-left historian surveys U.S. politics over the past 35 years and pronounces Ronald Reagan, like it or not, the era’s dominant figure.

In the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, the McGovernite Congress elected in 1974 appeared to restore liberalism to its accustomed place as the dominant force in American politics. In fact, the victory disguised years of Democratic Party confusion and intellectual decay. This, plus a growing network of conservative think tanks, institutes and media voices, and the feckless Ford and Carter presidencies, prepared the ground for conservatives to take over the Republican Party and then the country. The movement to shrink government, reduce taxes, reverse the country’s moral decline, keep the military strong and fight communism found its perfect champion in the smiling personage of Reagan, who so transformed the terms of political debate that no successor has been able to conduct business without accounting for him. Wilentz (History/Princeton Univ.; Andrew Jackson, 2006, etc.) correctly calls for Reagan to be treated seriously by professional historians. He’s wrong, though, to think his own political proclivities have not colored the analysis here. The author pays only grudging respect to Reaganism, tellingly defining it as a “distinctive blend of dogma, pragmatism, and, above all, mythology.” He attributes Reagan’s signal achievement—ending the Cold War without bloodshed—as much to Gorbachev. He treats the rest of the Reagan legacy—gutted regulatory agencies, regressive tax policies, politicized judiciary, polarized citizenry—as a set of indisputable, unfortunate facts that the Clinton interregnum barely disrupted. Wilentz declines to predict whether Bush II will revise and extend conservatism’s reach or spark a liberal resurgence. Still, the very fact that a historian of Wilentz’s credentials and liberal disposition willingly deals seriously and at such length with Reagan means, in a Nixon-to-China sense, attention must be paid.

An insightful analysis of the rise and reign of Reagan; a somewhat less successful explication of the meaning of Reaganism and its implications.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-074480-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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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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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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