A mixed bag studded with insights.

WHAT FUTURE

THE YEAR'S BEST IDEAS TO RECLAIM, REANIMATE & REINVENT OUR FUTURE

A sober, no-holds-barred view of the world that lies ahead.

In this provocative but uneven anthology, more than 20 writers consider living with robots, predictive policing, the potential automation of half of all present American jobs, and other aspects of life in the future. Seeking to “broaden the conversation” beyond the usual white, male, affluent, highly educated deciders who chart humanity’s course, editors Bosch, who writes on emerging technologies at Slate’s Future Tense, and Scranton (English/Notre Dame Univ.; War Porn, 2016, etc.) draw from mainstream media (the New Yorker, the Atlantic) as well as Boing Boing, Narratively, the Establishment, and the Dark Mountain Project. Their selections range from Bill McKibben’s solid but predictable report on climate change and Elizabeth Kolbert’s informative consideration of books about automation to lesser-known writers on such topics as fear of a feminist future, the “unquenchable thirst for simplified belief systems” typified by Donald Trump and his followers, and the ethical concerns raised by the latest application for genetic engineering: gene drives that can force a trait through a population. Unlike the innocent, optimistic forecasts found in many magazines of past decades, these anticipate the real possibility of unexpected or unintended consequences: we are now living in “a society distracted and undermined by its technology,” write the editors. The best articles raise serious questions about future outcomes: a Nature writer wonders whether African nations will actually be able to leapfrog into solar and wind power and avoid some environmentally destructive practices of the developed world. Or will such efforts be rendered useless by the continent’s inadequate electricity grids and transmission lines? In Slate, Sarah Aziza suggests that growing use of driverless cars in Saudi Arabia could be a boon for women unless Saudi officials adapt autonomous technology to “ ‘protect’ and surveil women.” Other contributors include Jeff VanderMeer, Kim Stanley Robinson, and David Biello.

A mixed bag studded with insights.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944700-45-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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