That would be a surprising future indeed, and Ash (History of the Present, 2000, etc.) makes a good case for why it, too,...

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AMERICA, EUROPE, AND THE SURPRISING FUTURE OF THE WEST

Americans are from Mars, Europeans from Venus, so goes the current right-wing formulation. But, warns British journalist/historian Ash, beware the attendant bigotry: “If we hear a voice generalizing angrily about ‘the Americans’ or ‘the Europeans,’ the disease is close.”

Mars, of course, is the god of war, and one of the great sources of division between the eastern and western branches of the old Atlantic Alliance these days is war: whereas the Bush gang seems to view the world as Hobbesian, the likes of Chirac and Schroeder appear to hope that it’s a Kantian place, amenable to peace and reason. In the middle stands England, that once-stolid insularity that was never quite as removed from the world as it thought, and that, Ash writes, has one day to choose between America and Europe: “A man standing astride two oil tankers that are moving apart, trying to hold them together with just the strength in his legs, is not a statesman—he’s an idiot.” In a time when Europeans are declaring the American Empire to be public enemy number one and American pundits are castigating the French and their western European allies (Germany, now Spain) as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” it seems that those tankers are steaming to quite different ports. But, Ash wonders, might it not be possible that a new alliance can be forged? “Can the West be put together again and, even if it can be, should it be?” Well, yes, he argues, but in a different project from containing communism or fighting terrorism (“Unless you are Don Quixote, you don’t attack a chimera”—namely, extending the material benefits of the so-called free world to the poor world beyond it, giving a penny on the pound or a cent on the euro or dollar “toward providing clean water, basic sustenance, shelter and medical care for the poorest of the poor.”

That would be a surprising future indeed, and Ash (History of the Present, 2000, etc.) makes a good case for why it, too, should not be considered chimerical.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-6219-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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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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