Righteous indignation meets techie magic to shine light on one of America’s most malignant warts.

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CULTURE WARLORDS

MY JOURNEY INTO THE DARK WEB OF WHITE SUPREMACY

A master of “social engineering” probes into the deepest recesses of White supremacism.

“In order to look as deeply as I could into the world of white nationalism,” writes Lavin, she has assumed a wide variety of online personas—e.g., a blond White nationalist from rural Iowa, a factory worker who regained his sense of purpose only after joining a White supremacist crew, and a seductress who broke down the electronic doors of one of the Ukraine’s most virulent neo-Nazi sects. “In real life I’m a schlubby bisexual Jew,” she writes, “living in Brooklyn, with long brown ratty curls, the matronly figure of a mother in a Philip Roth novel, and a brassy personal politic that’s not particularly sectarian but falls considerably to the left of Medicare for All.” For a full year, as she recounts in this skillful memoir, she descended into the hateful world of rightist extremism, delivering highly useful insights: For one, although White nationalist were quite happy to see Donald Trump take the presidency, he was held in suspicion for not acting beyond what they clearly see as mere encouragement and for allowing his daughter to be married to a Jew, one trope of anti-Semitism that plays on old canards but that gained power in the 20th century thanks to the likes of Henry Ford and his “vision of the Jew as world-encircling parasite, source and sustainer of the modern world’s evils.” The extreme right was a pioneer in computer communication, particularly because of the anonymity it offered, but Lavin’s fearless hacking into the Boogaloo crowd, the women-hating incels (“none of these men have seen labia or even a penis entering a vagina,” says one taunting obstetrician), and an extremely nasty 15-year-old girl whose racist rants earned a huge YouTube following have all helped expose the alt-right as a dangerous but largely pathetic bunch.

Righteous indignation meets techie magic to shine light on one of America’s most malignant warts.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-84643-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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