The authors’ accomplishment stands on its own, but their book also serves as a great introduction to a shared past that...

GATHER AT THE TABLE

THE HEALING JOURNEY OF A DAUGHTER OF SLAVERY AND A SON OF THE SLAVE TRADE

An instructive journey of reconciliation.

DeWolf (Inheriting The Trade: A Northern Family Confronts its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History, 2008) is a descendant of a family of slave traders; Morgan is the descendant of slaves. Together, they set out to discover how the shared legacies of violence and brutality continue to affect perpetrators and victims in every aspect of life. Starting with their respective family’s culture, food and entertainment, the authors attempted to better understand their differing emotions and reactions to slavery, racism and prejudice. Their project came together after they met in 2008 at the Coming to the Table program at Eastern Mennonite University and participated in programs like EMU's Trauma Healing Journey. DeWolf describes how he discovered segregation in Alabama in 1970 as a member of a church choir. Morgan writes about the reception she was accorded when she was trying to organize a music festival on Alabama's Gulf Coast in 1994. As trust developed, the authors combined their skills to investigate both their families' histories. Morgan's genealogical expertise and her ability to glean pertinent information from old county records and tombstones were matched by the capabilities DeWolf had developed working on Inheriting the Trade. Between 2008 and 2011, the authors traveled more than 100,000 miles in 27 states, investigating old plantations and other loci of the slave trade.

The authors’ accomplishment stands on its own, but their book also serves as a great introduction to a shared past that ought to be better known.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1441-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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