Well-presented, hard truths about our drinking water, which “is less safe than we deserve.”




A close analysis of the contaminants in our drinking water.

Water activist Siegel, whose book Let There Be Water (2105) explored how Israel has dealt with water scarcity, now turns to the quality of drinking water in the United States. As the author makes abundantly clear, Flint, Michigan, is not the only place with problems. He shows the widespread nature of the problem, relating chilling stories and interviews with experts, activists, and victims. The causes are varied: chemicals from factories seeping into groundwater, lead leeching into pipes, deficiencies in Environmental Protection Agency policies, and the multiplicity of small, private water utilities exempt from testing regulations. At the beginning of the narrative, Siegel grabs readers with an up-close-and-personal story of a son’s response to his father’s death from kidney cancer after their town became home to a factory producing Teflon. From there, the author turns to a history of federal regulations regarding safe water, pointing out their omissions and their lack of clarity. On a more positive note, Siegel cites the Orange County Water District in Fountain Valley, California, as a model of what can be done with better technology. Unfortunately, he does not see the drinking water industry as open to new ideas, and he urges bipartisan support in Congress and state legislatures of measures that encourage innovation. He includes some of his own recommendations, such as consolidating small water utilities, funding research through a tax on disposable water bottles, replacing old water pipes with smart ones, adopting nanofiltration techniques, and moving drinking water safety out of the EPA and turning it over to the Department of Health and Human Services. Siegel’s concluding suggestions about how readers can protect themselves from impure drinking water are less than reassuring, perhaps designed to spur action.

Well-presented, hard truths about our drinking water, which “is less safe than we deserve.”

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-13254-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


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

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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