A trenchant assessment of our nation’s ills.

DISPATCHES FROM THE RACE WAR

A White social justice advocate clearly shows how racism is America's core crisis.

Educator and activist Wise collects more than 50 of his hard-hitting essays from 2008 to the present, most previously published online, that address racism, inequality, and injustice. “In a nation founded on the dichotomous values of liberty and enslavement, freedom and white supremacy,” he writes, “hypocrisy was baked in from the beginning. And white folks have been trying to smooth over the contradiction ever since.” Asserting, with ample evidence, that “post-raciality is a fantasy,” Wise comments on a host of events that bear witness to pervasive racism, including reactions to Barack Obama’s election, Henry Louis Gates’ arrest after being mistaken as a burglar, the rise of the militant tea party, the killing of Black men by police, and the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin. “The biases that ended George Floyd’s life were explicit,” Wise writes. “Even more, they were part of an institutional and systemic process, whereby unequal treatment of black and brown bodies and communities is normative.” Trump, not surprisingly, comes in for vigorous criticism as a racist and narcissist. “It hurts,” Wise writes, “to see a nation elevate someone to the presidency so lacking in knowledge, so incurious about the world, so marinated in the politics of revenge, and hostile to a large part of humanity.” Debunking White denial, amnesia, and rationalizations, the author aims to “shore up the knowledge base of progressives who already have a commitment to racial justice and equity but perhaps find themselves less confident than they should be about the positions they hold” and, he hopes, “to inoculate uncommitted persons” against right-wing, uninformed arguments. He wishes schools would teach MESH subjects—Media Literacy, Ethics, Sociology, and History—“because if these are not given equal attention, we could end up being a nation filled with incredibly bright and technically proficient people who lack all capacity for democratic citizenship.”

A trenchant assessment of our nation’s ills.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-87286-809-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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