A useful addition to the necessarily growing literature on urban violence.

BLEEDING OUT

THE DEVASTATING CONSEQUENCES OF URBAN VIOLENCE--AND A BOLD NEW PLAN FOR PEACE IN THE STREETS

A study of how to reduce gun violence in low-income urban neighborhoods, a step the author sees as a necessary precursor to bringing neighborhood residents up from poverty.

Abt is well-positioned to make his arguments: He is currently a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Previously, he was a policymaker in Barack Obama’s Justice Department and studied urban violence in the administration of New York governor Andrew Cuomo. In addition, Abt has viewed gun violence as a Washington, D.C., high school teacher and as a New York City prosecutor. The author opens with an emergency room triage analogy: Doctors must halt a patient’s bleeding before even considering long-term recovery options; likewise, various parties must pull together to stop gun violence before moving on to broader solutions regarding employment, better wages, and other factors taken for granted in safer enclaves. In this “work of forward-looking pragmatism,” Abt skillfully mixes academic research, information about previously instituted pilot programs, and interviews with families devastated by gun-related homicides to propose a multistep solution that he believes will reduce gun deaths in cities across the country. The author argues that identifying individuals who carry out the violence as well as specific neighborhood corners where much of the shooting occurs constitute straightforward tasks. A mixture of prevention and punishment is vital, and Abt is confident that academic theory and street knowledge can coexist. “Perhaps surprisingly to some,” he writes, “social scientists and the street are largely in agreement on urban violence, one reinforcing the other as they see the same phenomenon through different lenses, with each perspective being necessary but not sufficient for a full understanding of the issue.” The author also addresses relevant issues of race and class, noting that “violence is not simply a manifestation of poverty; it is a force that perpetuates poverty as well.”

A useful addition to the necessarily growing literature on urban violence.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5416-4572-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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