A nuanced, carefully considered comparison of the deep-seated beliefs that pervade both groups.




A treatise on the roots and consequences of believing that one’s people and oneself are chosen by God, specifically in the cases of Israel and the United States.

In the first half of the book, Gitlin (Journalism and Sociology/Columbia Univ.; The Bulldozer and the Big Tent: Blind Republicans, Lame Democrats, and the Recovery of American Ideals, 2007, etc.) and Tablet magazine editor Leibovitz (Aliya: Three Generations of American-Jewish Immigration to Israel, 2005) consider Jewish history from the time of the Torah through the Zionist occupation of Israel in the 1960s. They look closely at the origins of the Hebrew children’s divine election and its evolving interpretations through the centuries. So abiding and pervasive was the idea of chosenness in Jewish culture, the authors argue, that it united both secular and religious Jews in justifying the creation of a nation-state in the Holy Land. The second half of the book traces American history from Puritan colonists, who considered themselves the inheritors of God’s covenant with Israel, through all of the major 19th- and 20th-century presidents. As the idea of America grew, so too did its people’s faith in their exceptional status as God’s gift to the world and their divine purpose in bringing his kingdom to earth, whether in the form of ever-spreading Christian salvation, democracy or social justice. The final two chapters delve into the authors’ opinions about chosenness and how it governs the actions of even the so-called “unchosen.” Gitlin and Leibovitz draw apt comparisons between the two cultures’ often violent uprooting of the respective native peoples—Palestinians and Indians—that got in the way of their manifest destinies. Although the section on American history flows more smoothly, the Jewish chapters offer a more complex examination of how the idea of chosenness has figured both politically and psychologically. The book offers lively, approachable scholarship for the lay reader and student of history alike, featuring sharply rendered arguments at a pace that rewards sustained attention without oversimplifying.

A nuanced, carefully considered comparison of the deep-seated beliefs that pervade both groups.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4391-3235-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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