A thorough account of a political dynamic that reverberates globally.

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Intimate Rivals

JAPANESE DOMESTIC POLITICS AND A RISING CHINA

In her debut, Smith offers a searching, scholarly discussion of Sino-Japanese relations.

China’s rapid ascendency has compelled the whole world to reconsider its geopolitical strategy, but perhaps no nation has as big a stake as Japan does. However, the hope for a lasting, productive détente between the two nations has been frustrated by both long-standing historical contentions and minor missteps. Smith, a senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, deftly unpacks the obstacles to such a sovereign partnership as well as the advantages such a partnership promises. Some of the problems seem stubbornly resistant to improvement, as they’re not easily reducible to policy; for example, the powerful resentments of some Chinese regarding Japanese aggression during World War II are stoked by the celebration of fallen soldiers at the Yasukuni Shrine but are hardly caused by it. Other disputes are more policy-driven, such as a battle involving the trade of frozen dumplings. Finally, some issues seem to involve both contemporary policy and cultural rivalry, such as the territorial imbroglios regarding islands in the East China Sea. As Smith notes, Japan seems to desire friendly resolution while remaining wary of creeping Chinese hegemony; China, on the other hand, wants superpower status but also membership in the international theater as a responsible player. In the background is the United States, courted by Japan to become involved in disputes but encouraged by China to remain neutral. What emerges from the author’s analysis is a picture of two world powers—Japan and the United States—struggling to accommodate a world transformed by the inexorable rise of a third, China. Additionally, Smith draws out larger lessons about the nature of modern diplomacy and the extent to which economic collaboration is never fully separable from politics. Her account is impressively erudite and scrupulously researched, written in a clear, mercifully jargon-free style. For those interested in the future of the region, U.S. foreign policy, or a deep examination of the power and limits of diplomacy, this book won’t disappoint.

A thorough account of a political dynamic that reverberates globally. 

Pub Date: April 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-231-16788-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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