Graham delivers an intriguing architectural history and an effective antidote to the excesses of urban renewal and city...

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DREAM CITIES

SEVEN URBAN IDEAS THAT SHAPE THE WORLD

Garden designer and historian Graham (American Eden: From Monticello to Central Park to our Backyards: What Our Gardens Tell Us About Who We Are, 2011, etc.) explores how modern cities were built on foundations made of the fantasies and utopian dreams of individual architects.

The author examines a variety of conceptions of architecture. He shows how building design and city planning have combined to destroy our sense of community, which is the life of any city. In this field guide to architectural styles, Graham provides examples of each style mentioned, represented by particular buildings, neighborhoods, and properties. Photographs and illustrations accompany each section. His heroine is Jane Jacobs, who organized the resistance to Robert Moses' destructive plans in New York in the 20th century. She helped save the community-based neighborhoods of lower Manhattan, including Washington Square, from his proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway. Moses' bulldozers had forced the large-scale relocation of people on behalf of building and city designs promoted by the architects Graham discusses. Among them is the Swiss utopian Le Corbusier, whose skyscraper slabs and open spaces were intended to impose a sense of “order” as seen in New York City's Stuyvesant Town, which opened in 1947. Frank Lloyd Wright's individualized agrarian homestead communities provided a dream of advancement embodied in the uniformity of American suburbs. He sought to “do away entirely with the notion of an urban or even town center, scattering the center’s traditional functions around the landscape.” These and other styles put structure ahead of community, and Graham outlines their common underpinnings, which are often fantastic dreams about recovering lost golden ages or overcoming present chaos with some abstract future order. The author’s spirited defense of Jacobs' successful struggle against Moses points to an alternative in which people and community again became primary.

Graham delivers an intriguing architectural history and an effective antidote to the excesses of urban renewal and city planning.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-219631-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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