Dozens of powerful, intimate stories of people affected traumatically by India’s expedient geopolitical borders.

MIDNIGHT'S BORDERS

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF MODERN INDIA

A viewpoint of modern India via a seven-year, 9,000-mile journey along its many borders. An India-born barrister, journalist, and photographer who worked for the U.N. war crimes tribunal in Yugoslavia and Rwanda before founding the Resettlement Legal Aid project in Cairo, Vijayan spent years interviewing stateless refugees around the entire border of India. She uses those stories to create a candid and heartbreaking work of exposé journalism. “The journey was…a return home,” she writes. “But after being away for more than a decade, I was coming back to a place I no longer recognized. I wanted to understand ‘my country,’ and I wanted to make sense of the ongoing violence at its borders, the debates over nationalism, citizenship, and the unanswered questions about belonging. I traveled to the frayed edges of the republic to meet the people who inhabit the margins of the state and to study the human toll of decades of aggressive, territorial nationalism.” Vijayan incisively shows how the lives of countless people are governed by often arbitrary borders created by imperialists who knew nothing of the ethnic makeup of the regions. She divides the book into five main sections, delineated along specific borders: the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, created by the looming Russian threat to British control of India in 1893, also known as the Durand Line; the India-Bangladesh border, another “contested colonial inheritance”; the India-China border; the India-Myanmar border; and the India-Pakistan border, “one of the most complex, violent, and dangerous boundaries in the world.” Each carries deep traumatic memories of India’s creation in 1947, and Vijayan is adept at teasing out the fraught, complicated social, political, and spiritual dynamics at play in each region. In the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reelection in May 2019, writes the author, “the government has aggressively implemented policies that seek to remake India into a Hindu nation,” thus again disenfranchising millions. Dozens of powerful, intimate stories of people affected traumatically by India’s expedient geopolitical borders.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61219-858-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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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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