Not much consideration of the broader implications here, but this chronicle of Cunningham’s deliberate duplicity certainly...

READ REVIEW

FEASTING ON THE SPOILS

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF RANDY “DUKE” CUNNINGHAM, HISTORY’S MOST CORRUPT CONGRESSMAN

Former Associated Press reporter Hettena dissects one of the decade’s most notorious political scandals.

Examining disgraced congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s fall from power, the author unearths subtle minutiae of corruption that add up to a cautionary tale. With a keen journalist’s eye buttressed by extensive legwork, Hettena illuminates Cunningham’s political demise in measured, focused segments that take the reader from a nail-biting FBI raid on his multimillion-dollar mansion in San Diego to the bleak realities of his current life as a federal inmate serving eight years for his crimes. The book incorporates interviews with more than 200 people directly or indirectly involved in Cunningham’s life. Hettena delves most significantly into his well-reported exploits as an ace combat pilot during Vietnam and his vengeful bitterness at being denied a Congressional Medal of Honor. (He received the slightly less prestigious Navy Cross.) These early experiences may have shaped Cunningham’s massive self-rationalizations later in life, the author suggests: “Combat framed Cunningham’s entire political life…Democrats were just another MiG to be shot down.” In this assessment, such virtues as the congressman’s prescient rebuke of the Tailhook Association don’t balance the books against sleazy behavior like the smear campaign he ran during his first election or the hateful outbursts on the House floor that revealed him to be a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot. Hettena’s damning but well-rounded portrait suggests that Cunningham’s 1998 diagnosis with prostate cancer was a significant turning point in his life, after which he increasingly cut corners in the name of self-interest and allowed himself to be exploited by a series of ambitious defense contractors who padded his pockets to the tune of $2.4 million.

Not much consideration of the broader implications here, but this chronicle of Cunningham’s deliberate duplicity certainly has the power to shock.

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36829-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more