Though the book may scare off almost as many prospective farmers as it encourages, the contributors argue their cases with...

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LETTERS TO A YOUNG FARMER

ON FOOD, FARMING, AND OUR FUTURE

Longtime advocates of sustainable agriculture join with new voices for a comradely take on the challenging future of farming.

Edited by Stone Barns Center communications director Hodgkins (editor: The Field Guide to the Nature Conservancy, 2003, etc.), with illustrations by Wormell, the title is a riff on Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. The anthology features contributions by a host of professional and nonprofessional writers with close ties to, or an abiding affinity for, the land, and many of the pieces read rather like a special section of Mother Jones, with a characteristic political slant. The core of the book is an ode to agricultural landscapes and heritage that registers concerns about “feeding people, fostering community, sustaining livelihoods, restoring soil, sequestering carbon, protecting natural systems and reconnecting us to the land.” It is also shot through with cautionary tales about the folly of large-scale corporate farming, misguided government programs, the graying of the American farmer, and the precipitous decline in their numbers. But the warnings are balanced by plausible strategies for reforming our food system, practical advice, and optimism regarding farming's future in this noble, difficult field. If occasionally the optimism smacks of wishful thinking, its tenets still may be pivotal in dealing with global ecological change. Some writers rail against the use of chemicals and high-productivity farming that depletes the soil, while others recognize that us-versus-them rancor serves no one and that educated, demanding consumers as well as small-scale farmers can help the big boys see the light (and the rest of us eat more healthily). The themes of the collection make repetition inescapable, which can get tiresome, though many of the less didactic pieces are lovely—e.g., Mas Masumoto's lyrical letter to his farmer daughter. Other notable contributors include Barbara Kingsolver, Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, Temple Grandin, Michael Pollan, Rick Bayless, and Marion Nestle.

Though the book may scare off almost as many prospective farmers as it encourages, the contributors argue their cases with an effective polemical tenor.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61689-530-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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