A breezy narrative that offers a couch-level view of Iran that you won’t find in travel guides.




A German-based journalist chronicles his travels to Iran.

Throughout this book, Orth, the former online travel editor for Der Spiegel, dispels myths about Iranians, whom he shows to be friendly, flirty (especially in text messages), warm, great dancers, and uncommonly hospitable. When he asked why Iranians hate America, one of his couchsurfing hosts responded, “not the Iranians—the government.” As the author demonstrates, when people are connecting with people on a personal level, the enmity that exists on the official level dissipates. One Iranian told Orth something that he loved so much he adopted the adage as his own, and he closes two consecutive chapters with it: “There are no bad places if the reason you are traveling is to meet people.” He met a wide variety of people at vacation oases, parties (featuring dancing and alcohol among other forbidden fruits), battlefields that serve as memorials, and especially in homes, where strangers open their doors as hosts. This book is as much about the titular method of vacationing as it is about the destination, as “couchsurfing,” though officially forbidden and theoretically in violation of the law, proved to be a particularly effective way of getting to know these people. And the trend is worldwide; the author documents how “fourteen million couchsurfers, hundreds of thousands of members of Hospitality Club, BeWelcome, Global Freeloaders, and Warm Showers, open their doors to strangers.” A phenomenon facilitated by the internet and smartphones, couchsurfing allows for cultural exchange outside the conventional channels of tourism, in a realm where money rarely changes hands. It is here that Orth revels in the paradoxes and contradictions he encountered—how Adele can be so popular in a country where women are forbidden to sing in public, how a public stance of religious fundamentalism becomes far more relaxed, even defied, in private, and how Iranians struggle with concepts of courtship and marriage that seem alien to Western visitors.

A breezy narrative that offers a couch-level view of Iran that you won’t find in travel guides.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77164-280-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greystone Books

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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 sharp, compelling, and impassioned book.


A London-based journalist offers her perspective on race in Britain in the early 21st century.

In 2014, Eddo-Lodge published a blog post that proclaimed she was “no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race.” After its viral reception, she realized that her mission should be to do the opposite, so she actively began articulating, rather than suppressing, her feelings about racism. In the first chapter, the author traces her awakening to the reality of a brutal British colonial history and the ways that history continues to impact race relations in the present, especially between blacks and the police. Eddo-Lodge analyzes the system that has worked against blacks and kept them subjugated to laws that work against—rather than for—them. She argues that it is not enough to deconstruct racist structures. White people must also actively see race itself by constantly asking “who benefits from their race and who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes.” They must also understand the extent of the privileges granted them because of their race and work through racist fears that, as British arch-conservative Enoch Powell once said, “the black man will [one day] have the whip hand over the white man.” Eddo-Lodge then explores the fraught question of being a black—and therefore, according to racist stereotype—“angry” female and the ways her “assertiveness, passion and excitement” have been used against her. In examining the relationship between race and class, the author further notes the way British politicians have used the term “white” to qualify working class. By leaving out reference to other members of that class, they “compound the currency-like power of whiteness.” In her probing and personal narrative, Eddo-Lodge offers fresh insight into the way all racism is ultimately a “white problem” that must be addressed by commitment to action, no matter how small. As she writes, in the end, “there's no justice, there's just us.”

A sharp, compelling, and impassioned book.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4088-7055-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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