A fine backgrounder and basic guide to American mob war stories to the middle of the 20th century. (16-page b&w photo...

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AMERICAN MAFIA

A HISTORY OF ITS RISE TO POWER

A particularly well-qualified reporter offers a broad survey of an industry that, as it destroyed the competition, regularly co-opted, enlisted, out-thought, and out-gunned sheriffs and G-men.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Mafia, though J. Edgar Hoover tried to pretend otherwise. But, according to this juicy account, organized crime has been less organized and more a loose confederation of geographic fiefdoms. Reppetto should know. The son of a professional gambler who did business with the “outfit,” he is himself a former Chicago commander of detectives, longtime president of NYC’s Citizens Crime Commission, and author of NYPD: A City and Its Police (2000). His tale covers mob activity from the 1880s through the 1950s, starting in New Orleans with the birth of the indigenous Mafia, as distinguished from the Camorra and the Black Hand. Still-disorganized gang doings spread to the heartland and beyond. Chicago, under the management first of Johnny Torrio and later of clumsy Al Capone, hosted counterfeiting and prostitution. New York, initially overseen by Arnold Rothstein, soon battled over artichokes, kosher chickens, and the rag trade. The big time came with Prohibition, a wonderful opportunity for crooks and cops alike. The story continues in LA, Detroit, Vegas, and Miami, with Thomas Dewey, Estes Kefauver, and the overhyped Eliot Ness chasing the bad guys. The familiar tales, from the Valentine’s Day massacre to Frank Costello’s hand-twisting on national TV, are related with the alert perspective of a street-smart cop. Dutch Shultz’s strange, poetic deathbed ramblings prompt the aside, “Dutch had not previously enjoyed a literary reputation.” Chicago florist Dion O’Bannion “sometimes supplied not only the posies but the corpse.” Supporting players include Duffy the Goat, Mad Dog Coll, Roxy Vanilla, Tony the Hat, and many capos and soldiers. Minor details may differ from other texts, but Reppetto’s reporting touches all bases (excluding recent events) vividly and authoritatively.

A fine backgrounder and basic guide to American mob war stories to the middle of the 20th century. (16-page b&w photo insert, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-8050-7210-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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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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