Smart and sometimes snarky; a book to study up on before taking to the streets to protest things as they are.

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CLASS MATTERS

THE STRANGE CAREER OF AN AMERICAN DELUSION

An examination of the concept and reality of class in a putatively classless nation.

In Fraser’s (The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America, 2016, etc.) provocative and well-supported view, signs of economic and social class are everywhere. “The housoleums and helipads and private islands of the 1 percent are the insignia of both their superordination and our frustrated desire,” writes the author, while of course the wealthy get the legroom while the not so wealthy are crammed into cattle-car economy seats. Even so, writes Fraser, the country has long labored to deny the very existence of class differences; it is part of our official ideology. The author serves up lively examples, writing, for instance, of the “paleface precincts” of New York and the attendant false consciousness of their inhabitants, who seem to disbelieve in class because they harbor the certainty that one day it will be their turn to be rich. Fraser’s account of how class is embedded in the Constitution alone is worth the price of admission. Though occasionally burdened by postmodern notions, his observations on such matters as the role of suburbia in advancing the no-class-in-America thesis (the suburbanites not considering themselves wage slaves “even though they did indeed work for wages”) are solid. Fraser argues that there is a cost to the thought that class does not exist in America, or, in a variant, that the proletariat is the middle class. The assurance that any of us can become part of the “propertied mastery” advances dog-eat-dog implications that in turn mean that Americans are looking out for ourselves rather than working for the emancipation of everyone, so that “the American utopia is a house divided against itself.”

Smart and sometimes snarky; a book to study up on before taking to the streets to protest things as they are.

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-300-22150-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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