Textually dense at times but effectively highlights the left-right division that is splitting much of the world.




The considerable effects of literature, music (popular and classical), and other arts on Americans’ attitudes about Israel.

Goldman (Religion/Middlebury Coll.; Jewish-Christian Difference and Modern Jewish Identity: Seven Twentieth-Century Converts, 2015, etc.) delivers a studied and sturdy look at what the subtitle promises. He also inserts elements of memoir, describing his youthful experiences in Israel, his time in the military there, and some negative reactions to his writing and talks about Israel’s rightward turn. (He is deeply concerned about the rise of the right and American evangelicals’ unquestioning support for it.) Although artists and their works are his principal focus, Goldman does not assume that readers know the history of the Middle East from the early 19th century. Consequently, in each chapter, he includes historical background of each period he discusses across the chronological narrative. We revisit the Ottoman Empire, the founding of the country after World War II, the Six-Day War, Camp David, the various Israeli political leaders throughout the decades—and much more. As a result, his discussions of the artists sometimes slip into the swelling undergrowth. He tells stories about Herman Melville—who visited the Middle East after the publication of Moby-Dick; the result of that journey was Clarel, his “book-length poem based on his Holy Land experiences”—and Mark Twain, whose travels, chronicled in The Innocents Abroad, 1869, began his rocket ride into international celebrity. Throughout, Goldman explores the works of a variety of luminaries, including Leonard Bernstein, Frank Sinatra, John Steinbeck, Leon Uris, Saul Bellow, James Baldwin, W.H. Auden, Johnny Cash, Madonna, and numerous others. But he also informs us about lesser-known events and people—e.g., the Adams Colony (1866), the building of the YMCA in Jerusalem (1933), and the life of Rabbi Judah Leon Magnes. Near the end, he has some critical words for Donald Trump.

Textually dense at times but effectively highlights the left-right division that is splitting much of the world.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4696-5241-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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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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