A sensible, encouraging account of progress (if not a “revolution”) in feeding hungry children.

WITHIN OUR GRASP

CHILDHOOD MALNUTRITION WORLDWIDE AND THE REVOLUTION TAKING PLACE TO END IT

A heartening survey of what good people are doing to help end childhood hunger.

Russell writes that nearly 1 in 4 children under the age of 5 are malnourished, or “stunted.” If this persists, they grow into stunted adults. Mixing history, nutrition science, interviews with experts, and accounts of her visits to aid organizations and projects (with a focus on Malawi), the author delivers an engrossing, modestly optimistic narrative about a sadly evergreen issue. Although most victims of malnourishment grow up in poverty, notes the author, adequate food is often available for adults. In many cases, external circumstances condemn their children. With no time to breastfeed for the first six months, overworked mothers introduce solid food too early, usually non-nutritious gruel containing local water and local germs. In Africa, diarrhea causes the most deaths among poor children. Another unnerving fact is how badly humanitarians performed for decades after World War II. The accepted aid method was to ship food to needy nations and set up feeding stations. However, many couldn’t reach the stations, and severely malnourished children received dense, calorie-rich food that did more harm than good. By the 1990s, organizations learned to use what was working based on scientific research and help as many people as possible. In Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, Russell introduces us to a legion of international humanitarian groups striving to feed children, educate and empower mothers, and teach hardscrabble farmers to grow more nutritious crops more efficiently. The author devotes much attention to entrepreneurs working to produce tasty, highly nutritious snacks that appeal to children at a low but profitable cost. Readers may have mixed feelings over the emphasis on private enterprise, but with humanitarian groups overstretched and leaders in many developing nations largely indifferent, there are few alternatives. As the author notes, “there is no standardized approach to any problem.”

A sensible, encouraging account of progress (if not a “revolution”) in feeding hungry children.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4724-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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