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THE NEXT GREAT MIGRATION

THE BEAUTY AND TERROR OF LIFE ON THE MOVE

A scientifically sophisticated, well-considered contribution to the literature of movement and environmental change.

Science journalist Shah looks at the biology and human ecology of migration, a topic overladen these days with all sorts of political shadings.

The child of Indian immigrants, Shah—author of the excellent and ever more timely book Pandemic (2016)—returns with an incisive examination of migration, which she considers a phenomenon both biological and cultural. Many bird species, for example, travel great distances in annual migrations, and a delicate butterfly species with which the author opens her narrative exhibits “a consistent pattern of movement across half of North America.” We have been taught to view such movement as potentially perilous: Invading species arrive, we think, and immediately disturb pristine ecosystems. Even Shah admits that “the idea of migration as a disruptive force has fueled my own work as a journalist.” Yet nothing could be more natural than animals moving in response to changes in environmental conditions. As the author shows, only a tiny fraction of relocated species displace others, an act that is consistent with Darwinian theories of natural selection. “Condemning newcomers as inevitably disruptive,” she writes, pointedly, “blames them for all transgressions committed by 1 percent or less of their members.” When it comes to humans, she writes, the topic becomes more fraught. In a time when humans are increasingly on the move, whether because of political or economic displacement or because their homes are becoming uninhabitable thanks to climate change, politicians such as Donald Trump are using the tiny number of problem-makers, real or potential, to keep the vast majority of law-abiding would-be citizens from making their homes in new lands. This ignores millennia of human movement from one place to the next. Even though “over the long history of life on earth, [migration’s] benefits have outweighed its costs,” nationalists still create xenophobic, incoherent policies, agreeing only that strangers are to be despised.

A scientifically sophisticated, well-considered contribution to the literature of movement and environmental change. (b/w maps)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63557-197-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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