A clearly written, impressively researched, and accomplished follow-up to The Big Squeeze.

BEATEN DOWN, WORKED UP

THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF AMERICAN LABOR

The subtitle says it all in a powerful book from an author who is “deeply concerned about what is happening to many American workers.”

Former longtime New York Times reporter Greenhouse (The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, 2008) offers a combination of labor union history in America, investigative reporting about how rapacious employers and Republican governance have diminished labor unions, and an agenda for the revitalization of unions across the country. Throughout the narrative, the author circles back to the puzzle at the foundation of the book: Given how clearly labor unions improved employment conditions for hundreds of millions of laborers, why did those benefitting surrender to the corporate-government plan to eliminate those unions? With copious evidence, Greenhouse demonstrates that unionized workers received—and still receive from existing unions—not only improved wages, but also safer work conditions, predictable schedules, more comprehensive insurance, improved retirement benefits, increased paid vacation periods, and much more. As he notes, while it’s true that some union leaders were guilty of corruption and/or indifference, for the most part, they have protected workers more avidly than corporate executives, who are more beholden to stockholders than employees. In many cases, corporate lobbyists prevail; as a result, the negotiating arena is no longer equitable for unions. Before a closing chapter recommending numerous alterations in laws and regulations, the author demonstrates how other nations, especially in Europe, have instituted much more equitable systems. “Europeans,” he writes, “often deride America’s $7.25-an-hour minimum wage as McJobs, while McDonald’s workers in highly unionized Denmark average more than $20 an hour.” Greenhouse’s message is unambiguous: “In no other industrial nation do employers fight so hard to defeat, indeed quash, labor unions.” Throughout the book, the author interweaves positive examples of labor-management collaborations that lead to a more productive workforce. These bits of hope come from anecdotes about culinary workers unionizing in Las Vegas, fast-food workers advocating for an increased minimum wage, and public school teachers going on strike.

A clearly written, impressively researched, and accomplished follow-up to The Big Squeeze.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-87443-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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