An unusual and engaging tour of the horizon of American diplomacy that should appeal to both scholarly and general audiences.

ARK OF THE LIBERTIES

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

Diplomatic history of the United States, emphasizing its spiritual underpinnings as much as wars and treaties.

Though Widmer (Martin Van Buren, 2004, etc.) does not ignore the traditional subjects within the field, his theological analysis takes him to places where other scholars don’t always tread. The former Clinton speechwriter sees the country’s longtime focus on spreading liberty throughout the world as a net positive, when done properly. He begins with a long examination of the nation’s founding, spending considerable time on the nation’s Puritan roots and showing how John Winthrop’s idea of a “city upon a hill” has inspired politicians of both parties ever since. Widmer is harder on Republican presidents, especially Reagan and the Bushes, whom he argues didn’t follow their lofty moralistic rhetoric with equally just policies. He describes the architects of the current administration’s foreign policy as “wolves in Wilsonian clothing.” One of the author’s key points is that Woodrow Wilson was more than a sentimental idealist, and his foreign policy was underrated. “By giving voice to what had been airy aspirations, and mobilizing the world’s peoples, and taking his plan far toward completion,” he writes, “Wilson proved to be a realist indeed.” Widmer covers many subjects at a brisk pace while synthesizing a vast array of primary and secondary sources. Occasionally the volume of information becomes overwhelming, but the author makes solid use of poetry and fiction to back up his arguments—the title comes from Herman Melville’s 1850 novel White-Jacket, which uses the phrase “ark of the liberties” to describe America’s role as a moral exemplar.

An unusual and engaging tour of the horizon of American diplomacy that should appeal to both scholarly and general audiences.

Pub Date: July 4, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-2735-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 18

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more