This is a vital, timely issue, and the author’s research is impressively in-depth, but an overabundance of anecdotes and...

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RETHINKING SEX, POWER, & CONSENT ON CAMPUS

An award-winning journalist reports from the front lines of the sexual assault controversy.

Entering the complex, contentious conversation about sexual assault on college campuses, New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair contributing editor Grigoriadis offers an extensively researched investigation based on dozens of case reports and interviews with 120 students (accusers, accused, and activists) from 20 universities and 80 administrators and experts. What has emerged from her three years of research, though, are more questions than satisfying answers: what constitutes sexual assault? How prevalent is the problem? How should colleges address assault charges? How can assaults be prevented? Types of college assault, she found, occur in four main categories: penetration (“intercourse, oral sex, and fingering”); “incapacitated rape,” meaning “sex that happens when the victim is unconscious”; any aggressive act, such as groping; and “the vast middle ground” of sex without consent. Incapacitated rape, the author reveals, is the most common type, resulting from a culture of heavy drinking at most residential colleges. The most significant risk factors for assault are “free-flowing alcohol and misogyny,” both of which are hallmarks of fraternities. “If you want to maintain your status as a striving middle-to-upper-middle-class member of society,” Grigoriadis asserts, “having been part of the Greek system in college is a sure way to do it.” She paints a dismal picture of college social life, where students feel pressured to hook up, where boys are confused about what constitutes consent, and where girls—often falling-down drunk—acquiesce to sex that they don’t really want. As a society, writes the author, we’re afraid “to tell girls that they too bear responsibility for their sexual behavior and safety.” In an appendix, she offers common-sense advice for students and parents: “watch out for guys who exhibit toxic masculinity”; watch what you drink; “learn a few self-defense tricks”; and carefully read the sexual-misconduct section of the college handbook.

This is a vital, timely issue, and the author’s research is impressively in-depth, but an overabundance of anecdotes and statistics offers little clarity on the issue.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-70255-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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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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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