A well-rendered, incisive exploration of “a history of serial dispossession and imperial violence."

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THE BROKEN HEART OF AMERICA

ST. LOUIS AND THE VIOLENT HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A Harvard professor of history and African American studies posits that studying the history of St. Louis can help explain more than 200 years of racism and exploitation in the U.S.

“This book,” writes Johnson, a Missouri native, “traces the history of empire and racial capitalism through a series of stages, beginning with the fur trade in the early nineteenth century and following all the way down to payday lending, tax abatement, for-profit policing, and mass incarceration in our own times.” In a narrative of unrelenting, justified outrage grounded in impressive scholarship, Johnson proceeds mostly chronologically. He begins in early-19th-century St. Louis, a city that served as a base for a violent white-dominated government and military, which murdered Native Americans in massive numbers, with impunity, while driving them away from their long-established homelands. After the eradication of Native communities, they turned their violent intentions toward black communities. Many of those black residents had lived in metropolitan St. Louis for generations; tens of thousands more had arrived from the Deep South hoping to escape the aftermath of slavery. Instead, they encountered a slavery of sorts based on low-wage employment; segregated, substandard housing, transportation, and schooling; and frequent emotional and physical violence. Johnson explains the nature of structural racism, including how it flows naturally from rampant capitalism. Although occasional passages qualify as theoretical—and may only appeal to fellow historians—every chapter includes searing, unforgettable examples. White men often portrayed as heroes are shown by Johnson to be bigots, including Lewis and Clark and Thomas Hart Benton, but the author also exposes plenty of unsavory characters who will be unknown to readers without a familiarity with St. Louis history. Johnson offers plenty of evidence from the current century, as well, including the police murder of Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson. The epilogue offers hope, however minimal, that residents can imagine “new ways to live in the city, to connect with and care for one another, to be human.”

A well-rendered, incisive exploration of “a history of serial dispossession and imperial violence."

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-465-06426-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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