The Longstreet episode is one of the best in the book, which covers ground well discussed elsewhere in the historical...

READ REVIEW

THE BLOODY SHIRT

TERROR AFTER APPOMATTOX

Serviceable overview of vigilante violence in the Reconstruction-era South and its victims.

Historians have long observed that emancipation was a half-gesture: Scarcely any provision was made for the freed slaves, and it was all too easy for former owners to proclaim—as one of those who people military historian Budiansky’s pages does—that freed slaves would not be paid wages for doing the same work as they did while in bondage. “You shall work for me as you have heretofore,” the owner told the manumitted slaves, “and I will give you the same treatment you have always had, the same quantity and quality of food, and the same amount of clothing.” The victorious federal government set to work with 40-acres-and-a-mule schemes, instituting Reconstruction and appointing military and civilian governors throughout the South, some of them black. Defeated Southerners mounted resistance through groups such as, most famously, the KKK. Other groups operated at the local level, as with one self-described “committee” that warned that an Englishman who rented Louisiana land to freedmen would be punished by being burned out: the gin house first, the rest of the place next. “If that don’t break it up, we will break your neck,” the committee warned. How the Englishman responded we do not know, but Budiansky (Her Majesty’s Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage, 2005, etc.) tracks the fortunes of several Reconstruction appointees, as well as those of the renowned Confederate general James Longstreet, who took time to remind the guerrillas that their cause had, in fact, been defeated, adding, “These issues expired upon the fields last occupied by the Confederate armies. There they should have been buried.” Longstreet’s intercession did not make Reconstruction any easier—and, writes Budiansky, the general suffered terribly for having voiced such views.

The Longstreet episode is one of the best in the book, which covers ground well discussed elsewhere in the historical literature.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-01840-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more