Talty is an excellent storyteller, and this particular story is highly relevant as America’s next set of immigrants...

THE BLACK HAND

THE EPIC WAR BETWEEN A BRILLIANT DETECTIVE AND THE DEADLIEST SECRET SOCIETY IN AMERICAN HISTORY

A thrilling tale of the “Italian Sherlock Holmes.”

Joseph Petrosino (1860-1909) started out at as a shoeshine boy and ran a garbage cart, but through a Tammany Hall connection, he got a job as a detective with the New York Police Department. Ostensibly the story of the mob and their uninhibited growth at the turn of the 20th century, Talty’s (Hangman, 2014, etc.) book presents much more, narrating the desperate struggle of one group of immigrants, the Italians, trying to eke out a life and raise their children without fear of abuse. They sought acceptance but suffered due to the acts of a few of their number. The government was biased, the police were indifferent, and most immigrants struggled to find jobs. While the Black Hand crime organization terrorized the Italian community, police protection was ineffective, virtually nonexistent, and the Secret Service only protected the rich and powerful. As the terror spread beyond Italian communities, calls went out to jail, deport, or bar absolutely all Italians from entering America. Petrosino convinced the police commissioner to allow him to form an Italian Squad. It was only five men, but all were fluent in Sicilian, expert in disguises, and able to blend in sufficiently to learn the secrets of their quarry. In the first year, they halved child kidnappings, protection rackets, and bombings, with little support from fellow police. Petrosino was beyond remarkable, dedicated to his work, absolutely fearless, and furious at any who would pay the Black Hand’s demands. The story of what he did almost single-handedly, as well as the systems he devised to do so, is fascinating, and the persecution, low pay, abuse, and ignorance of the immigrants’ rich culture strike a chord close to home these days.

Talty is an excellent storyteller, and this particular story is highly relevant as America’s next set of immigrants struggles for acceptance.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-63338-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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