by Timothy Black ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 4, 2009
An impressively long-term, diligent sociological study, despite occasionally longwinded prose.
A sociologist examines the lives of marginalized Puerto Rican youths in Springfield, Mass., connecting their stories to the economic, cultural and political factors that shaped them.
Black (Sociology/Univ. of Hartford) met the Rivera brothers—Fausto, Sammy and Julio (all pseudonyms)—in 1990 and followed them for 18 years. Besides the brothers, the author also includes their parents, their partners and children and men in their neighborhood, many of them drug dealers. Black builds a picture of marginalization, racism and poverty. Economic statistics, tables and maps provide background, and generous excerpts from his taped interviews provide color. The author delves into how these youths fared in school, revealing both their personal failures and the flaws in the bilingual education system that led to their giving up and dropping out. Springfield was then the center of the drug trade for western Massachusetts, and Sammy was the first of the Rivera brothers to become involved in it. Fausto’s life took the common path from school to the street to prison, where he spent seven years. Both men became hooked on drugs. Julio, however, left the gang life to become a truck driver, and with a working wife was able to buy a house and edge upward toward the middle class. Black’s close relationship to the boys often entailed mentoring, urging them to complete their schooling, helping them with documents, appearing for them in court, visiting them in prison and getting them into rehab. The author’s clear portraits of his subjects, his empathy for them, his pride in being accepted and even sometimes protected by them and his anger about the institutions and policies that have shaped their world give an immediate, powerful human dimension to their stories.An impressively long-term, diligent sociological study, despite occasionally longwinded prose.
Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2009
Page Count: 464
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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