A chilling, often depressing read that merits attention, if only for the other “perfect soldiers” who may be waiting out...

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PERFECT SOLDIERS

THE HIJACKERS: WHO THEY WERE, WHY THEY DID IT

Is there any reason why we need to know more about the 19 hijackers who attacked America on 9/11?

Actually, there is. Los Angeles Times reporter McDermott concedes that none of these young, robotlike religious fanatics were particularly remarkable or even interesting. Indeed, they were tedious company for everyone but the like-minded. But therein lies McDermott's cautionary point. The fact that the hijackers were “fairly ordinary men” makes them more ominous, easily replaceable by any one of thousands of similar human drones presumably waiting in the wings. This account focuses primarily on three of the hijackers: Mohammed el-Amir Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah. It follows them from separate mundane childhoods in the Middle East through their student days in Hamburg to the final months of preparation in the United States. In the process, we witness their evolution from pious Muslims into radical jihadists, along with the growth of the loosely conceived plot that outwitted U.S. security largely through its sheer simplicity and insanity. McDermott never really fulfills the promise of his subtitle to explain why they did it, aside from offering the standard bromide that they saw themselves as martyrs in a holy war. But his extensive research and well-organized narrative does better in showing just who these misguided killers were and how they eluded suspicion by simply keeping their heads down. The story carries several lessons. Not the least is the repeated failure of U.S. and German authorities to prevent the catastrophe, although they were often achingly close to doing so, even days before Sept. 11. Another lesson is that despite the near-preternatural reputation Al Qaeda acquired following 9/11, the group’s small core was composed of men in many ways as bumbling and error-prone as your local Mafia crew. Tragically, it was American inattention and carelessness that allowed them to succeed.

A chilling, often depressing read that merits attention, if only for the other “perfect soldiers” who may be waiting out there.

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-058469-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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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 clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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