As we head into the presidential primary season, Greenberg’s book couldn’t be timelier, more disturbing for the Republicans,...

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AMERICA ASCENDANT

A REVOLUTIONARY NATION'S PATH TO ADDRESSING ITS DEEPEST PROBLEMS AND LEADING THE 21ST CENTURY

A prominent Democratic strategist and pollster lays out a reform agenda for the future.

Pity the Republican Party. Condemned in the 21st century to fighting a rear-guard action against a series of demographic, economic, and social trends that include more racial diversity, stepped-up immigration, differing family structures, new energy sources, and increasing secularism, the GOP continues to battle. Adviser to a variety of center-left politicians, home and abroad, from Bill Clinton to Nelson Mandela, Greenberg (Dispatches from the War Room: In the Trenches with Five Extraordinary Leaders, 2009, etc.) relies on his own research—surveys and focus groups—commentary from economists, political scientists, sociologists, and reporters, and numerous graphs and charts to make this case and to argue for a progressive response to the changes wrought by the technological era. He compares the current moment to the similarly disruptive Industrial Revolution, during which a succession of Democratic presidents initiated a raft of social reforms that sanded off the rough edges of the economy and culture and allowed the nation to become pre-eminent. In smooth, almost chatty prose, Greenberg argues the time is ripe for a bold progressive agenda that addresses the societal perturbations of our own time, that history “is on the side of the ascendant revolutions” that will inevitably overwhelm opponents. Unsurprisingly, the author calls for increased government activism speaking to issues like climate change, wage disparity, the renewal of our cities, our education system, and infrastructure, and a commitment to full employment. To the already converted and those who shudder at the mention of the Koch brothers and laugh at the scrum of Republicans aspiring to the White House, the author’s analysis will appear spot-on. Greenberg’s confident, well-researched, and well-written delivery may even persuade some skeptics. At least half the country though, the soon-to-be-extinct half, according to the author, will remain unconvinced.

As we head into the presidential primary season, Greenberg’s book couldn’t be timelier, more disturbing for the Republicans, or more challenging for those looking to lead the Democrats.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00367-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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