Revealing reading to think about before the midterms heat up.

THE RED AND THE BLUE

THE 1990S AND THE BIRTH OF POLITICAL TRIBALISM

Tired of the political squabbling and incivility of our day? Blame it on hanging chads—and Newt Gingrich.

According to NBC and MSNBC political correspondent Kornacki, the notion that there are two Americas, more or less equal in strength, dates precisely to Nov. 7, 2000, “the product of an entire nation torn perfectly in half.” The rupture took time to build, though; one climacteric was the civil rights movement of the postwar era, which led to the formation of a Southern, segregationist wing of the Democratic Party that would in time switch to the Republicans and take the South with them. When Bill Clinton came along in the 1990s, he brought a “New Democratic” style meant in at least some regard to woo the region back into the fold, but Republican firebrand Gingrich would have none of it. Instead, he practiced a slash-and-burn, us-vs.-them politics that verged on civil war. Few of his allies liked him, but indeed, “even if they still despised him, they had to respect him” after he toppled Speaker of the House Jim Wright with a decidedly malign but effective campaign. Gingrich, rising to that position, took it as his brief to “obliterate all that modernism had created,” and were it not for his considerable failings, he might have succeeded—unfortunately, others have continued that project. After eight years of Gingrich versus Clinton, and after some serious missteps on the part of Clinton’s would-be successor, Al Gore, the electoral map took the form it bears now, with blue states north of the Mason-Dixon Line and red ones mostly below it—and with intractable differences that all but guarantee the impossibility of any future candidate’s winning by a transnational landslide as Ronald Reagan did.

Revealing reading to think about before the midterms heat up.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243898-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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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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