An invaluable contemporary account of how millions of Europeans have taken divergent paths—of compromise or conflict—in...

HISTORY OF THE PRESENT

ESSAYS, SKETCHES, AND DISPATCHES FROM EUROPE IN THE 1990S

Ash (The File: A Personal History, not reviewed) acts as informed, impassioned eyewitness to post-communist Europe in this collection of dazzling essays, most of which were originally published in the New York Review of Books.

Following the "velvet revolutions" of 1989, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Balkans engaged in the hard work of nation-building (or rebuilding). In a kaleidoscopic treatment that combines journalism's immediacy with history's perspectives, Ash recounts the leaps and stutter-steps these countries took toward liberty and prosperity, as well as their unexpected reversals: old allies' quarrels, lapses into complacency, or, worst of all, descents into anarchy and barbarism. In Prague, he chronicles the explosion of "color, noise, [and] action" unleashed by new-found freedom; in Gdansk, he views the "head-high weeds [and] rusting hulls" of the former Lenin Shipyard with Lech Walesa, who rose to leadership of the Solidarity movement here. He visits former East German dictator Erich Honecker, dying of cancer in prison; discusses friend Helena Luczwo, once the sparkplug of a Polish underground newspaper, now deputy editor of the most successful newspaper in post-communist Europe; and offers a glowing appreciation of Pope John Paul II, "the greatest world leader of our times." While these profiles highlight Ash's eye for detail, other essays spotlight his bent toward moral inquiry. In "Trials, Purges, and History Lessons," Ash assesses how Central and Eastern Europe are addressing collaborators with communism. "Intellectuals and Politicians" takes issue with the contention of good friend Václav Havel, dissident playwright-turned-president, that intellectuals should enter politics in order to produce a "new wind" in public affairs. In four dispatches on Kosovo, he assails Western leaders for concentrating on monetary union early in the decade while ignoring Balkan tensions that culminated in Miloševic's "ethnic cleansing" campaign.

An invaluable contemporary account of how millions of Europeans have taken divergent paths—of compromise or conflict—in reaction to a decade of unanticipated change.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-50353-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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