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

THE NEXT GREAT MIGRATION

THE BEAUTY AND TERROR OF LIFE ON THE MOVE

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 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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