Occasionally facile but credible examination of the GOP’s self-destructive Congress-centric power shift.

THE STRONGHOLD

HOW REPUBLICANS CAPTURED CONGRESS BUT SURRENDERED THE WHITE HOUSE

Political writer Schaller (Political Science/Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore County; Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, 2006) examines how Republicans sacrifice presidential power for congressional clout.

The author tackles a subject that has been bandied about in radio and TV in superficial ways but until now has not really been comprehensively covered in extended book-length form: how the Republican Party has not only become a political party at war with itself, but also a party that has become, in a purely congressional context, one of the most disruptive and obstructive forces in American political history and a party whose presidential potential has steadily diminished. Schaller’s main thesis is clear: “The Republican Party is a Congress-centered and specifically a House-heavy party because congressional Republicans made choices and staked out positions during the post-Reagan era that tended to benefit themselves at the expense of the party’s presidential candidates.” While this is a somewhat general history of the post-Reagan Republican Party, it’s also a straightforward recent history of the party’s steady shift rightward, culminating in the far-right tea party wing. Schaller puts forward Newt Gingrich, not Reagan, as the most significant figure in the Republican Party. Gingrich, after all, instituted the policy that avoids compromise with the opposition at all costs, which is the same policy in effect today. Unfortunately, the author spreads his research too thin at times, and the main thrust of his argument tends to get lost in peripheral historical detail. The writing is also pockmarked with the sort of pesky political clichés and catchphrases that can often mar mainstream political radio and TV. However, Schaller takes care not to let the book fall into overly partisan territory (although he's assuredly pro-Democrat), and he lays out a simple, just-the-facts approach. He ends with a conclusion that’s as simplistic as it is convincing.

Occasionally facile but credible examination of the GOP’s self-destructive Congress-centric power shift.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-300-17203-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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

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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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