An intense, riveting report on a public health crisis and a network of heroes on the front lines.



A chilling update on the most drug-ravaged sectors of North America.

Once journalist Lupick details the dire state of drug addiction across the country, the main focus of the book becomes one of motivation, humanitarianism, and perseverance on the part of a group of inner-city activists in Vancouver’s skid row section, Downtown Eastside. The author describes this area as destitute and rife with single room–occupancy hotels and countless drug pushers and addicts. In moving profiles, he chronicles the area’s downslide since the early 1990s. The drug epidemic’s stronghold on this particular Vancouver sector is intensified but also humanized by the stories of the well-organized efforts of the many activists who have provided counseling, compassionate assistance, and radical solutions through the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, which was founded in 1998. The roadblocks were monumental, including political invisibility, controversies surrounding supervised injection sites and overdose prevention programs, and efforts to destigmatize the addicts and their behaviors. Most inspiring are the stories of those rallying for the rights of users and advocating for interventional drug and harm reduction programs with adequate follow-up measures. Lupick also checks in with several other major American cities—Boston, Seattle, Miami, San Francisco, Toledo—to show their progress on combating the drug-abuse epidemics. The author highlights many unconventional approaches to fighting the onslaught of drug deaths, how these singular techniques are working, and what needs refinement to improve the odds. In addition to chronicling the desperation of addicts and how entire neighborhoods can buckle beneath the weight of drug dependency, Lupick also provides significant insight into the movement to destigmatize the opioid abuse epidemic with efforts to reclassify it as a health problem and to combat it with methods of harm reduction rather than criminal policing. He brings the reality of the perennial war on drugs into vivid focus and introduces an impressive group of activists confronting this “ongoing struggle” with steely determination and compassion.

An intense, riveting report on a public health crisis and a network of heroes on the front lines.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55152-712-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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