A detailed, compelling account of a little-known chapter in the Iraq War.

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Ramadi Declassified

A ROADMAP TO PEACE IN THE MOST DANGEROUS CITY IN IRAQ

In this modern war memoir, a retired Army colonel recounts his experiences working to suppress terrorism in a strategic Iraqi city.

Deane recounts his deployment to Ramadi in 2006, when it was known as the “most dangerous city in the world,” and how he and his men helped to turn it into what he calls “the safest city in Iraq” by the time U.S. troops pulled out of the country. Already a Desert Storm veteran with more than a decade of Army experience, he and the other soldiers faced numerous obstacles at the beginning of their deployment, from frequent suicide bombings to the distrust of the local leaders, whose help they needed to find al-Qaida operatives. Deane describes the slow, painstaking work of convincing local sheiks to support the new democratic government and of helping them to create an all-Iraqi city police force. He also highlights the complicated nature of securing allies across cultural barriers in a war that weaponized propaganda as much as grenades. But apart from vivid descriptions of combat and of the many casualties suffered by the U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies, the book keeps a mostly optimistic tone as it focuses on the successful joint efforts of American and local forces to make the city a safer place. It’s also illustrated with color photos of many of the people and places described. For the most part, Deane’s prose is clear, simple, and free of political soapboxing or unwarranted boasting. He acknowledges his mistakes and those of other U.S. troops while also holding to his book’s thesis, which claims that their operations had a positive impact on Ramadi and Iraq as a whole, despite their negative portrayal in the American news media. Small grammatical errors, such as the redundant “$500 bucks,” litter the narrative, and readers without military experience may get bogged down in the often untranslated Army terminology. However, the war’s historical background is well-researched, as are the back stories of many prominent players.

A detailed, compelling account of a little-known chapter in the Iraq War.

Pub Date: May 30, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Cleveland Writers Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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