A tremendously elucidating book that should be required reading for civics courses.

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THE TRUE FLAG

THEODORE ROOSEVELT, MARK TWAIN, AND THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN EMPIRE

A timely work on the vociferous sides taken over the Spanish-American War of 1898—and how that history relates to the ongoing debate regarding American imperialism.

In this engaging, well-focused history, Kinzer (The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World, 2013, etc.), a former New York Times bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua and Boston Globe Latin America correspondent, plunges into the heated conversations in Washington and the tabloids over American expansionist designs on Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam at the turn of the 19th century. During a “ravenous fifty-five day spasm” in the summer of 1898, the United States “asserted control” over these far-flung nations—totaling 11 million people—by handily defeating the Spanish fleet and thus acquiring rather suddenly an overseas empire. Was this even constitutional, and had not founder George Washington himself warned against “the mischiefs of foreign intrigue”? Using the excerpts of speeches and editorials, Kinzer skillfully extracts an immediate sense of the heated debate that gripped the country, centering around the jingoist triumvirate of Massachusetts Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, the consummate Washington insider; Theodore Roosevelt, who became Assistant Secretary of the Navy and then vice president; and the powerful publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, proprietor of the New York Journal. While the first two gave powerful, persuasive speeches on the need to extend “national authority over alien communities” and offer the U.S. urgent new markets, Hearst acted as the “mighty megaphone” for the imperialist message, especially when the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor gave the casus belli to attack Spain. Rather late in the game, Mark Twain, who was traveling abroad and saw firsthand President William McKinley’s racist American policy of “benevolent assimilation,” emerged as an effective advocate for anti-imperialism, as did Andrew Carnegie and (conflictedly) William Jennings Bryan. In the last chapter, Kinzer astutely brings the debate from the turn of the century to the present.

A tremendously elucidating book that should be required reading for civics courses.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-216-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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