An uneven collection of essays that ranges from fresh analyses of the lives of Asian-Americans to smart commentaries on...




The debut book by an award-winning magazine writer offers his perceptive, personal view of the lives of Asian-Americans and other subjects.

For this collection, National Magazine Award–winning essayist Yang, a columnist at Tablet, uses a title that nods to The Souls of Black Folk, the 1903 classic by W.E.B. Du Bois, which introduced the concept of the "double consciousness" of people of color in America. Several of the essays, which appeared in New York Magazine, the Guardian, Harper’s, n+1, and other publications over the last decade or so, do focus on the experiences of Asian-Americans. "The Face of Seung-Hui Cho" is the author’s visceral but insightful response to being assigned to write about the Virginia Tech mass killer, fueled by his resentment that the assignment came because he, like the shooter, is Korean-American. "Paper Tigers" is an acerbic, well-documented response to Amy Chua's bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which Yang points out that traditional Asian approaches to education often bring astonishingly high performances by students, but those scores and grades rarely translate into success in the highest (whitest) echelons of corporations. In "Eddie Huang Against the World,” the author paints a telling portrait of the rock-star chef's struggles when his memoir Fresh Off the Boat became a TV series that be believed was filled with stereotypes. The other essays, though, range across such subjects as the "pickup artist" craze, the anxieties of dating and sex in the digital age, and profiles of hacker/activist Aaron Swartz and historian Tony Judt. Three briefer and more recent essays in the final section return to the subject of racism, especially the recent resurgence of white supremacists, but they are more abstract, and less powerful, than the earlier pieces.

An uneven collection of essays that ranges from fresh analyses of the lives of Asian-Americans to smart commentaries on pop-culture phenomena but doesn't cohere around a single subject or theme.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-24174-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.


The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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