A top-notch historian brings together recondite research with felicitous prose. An excellent choice for students of...

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THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT

FROM TEDDY ROOSEVELT TO BILL CLINTON

An acclaimed historian examines the American presidency from 1901 to 2001.

Even though he was uninspiring, William McKinley, assassinated in 1901, was the “creator of the 20th-century presidency,” writes Leuchtenburg (Emeritus, History/Univ. of North Carolina; Herbert Hoover, 2006, etc.), who chronicles the entire presidential gallery across the 20th century. So what made McKinley so modern? Not only was he the first to ride in an automobile, appear in motion pictures, and use the telephone, but he set up a table for reporters to brief them daily and pursued a more imperial executive style in deploying American troops on his own authority. This greatly increased power of the presidency was new, as the country at that point was expanding hugely in terms of industry and population. With the accession of Theodore Roosevelt, the office became the famous “bully pulpit” of a muscular, progressive leader, not afraid to take on big business—e.g., J.P. Morgan’s Northern Securities Company, trustbusted by the Supreme Court in 1904. Woodrow Wilson, with his “stern demeanor and his kinetic energy,” was both revered for his idealism and vilified for the scarring of the World War I years. After the “Wilsonian usurpation,” writes Leuchtenburg, Congress was “in no mood to indulge a strong executive.” The country was content with Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover yet welcomed the activism during the Great Depression of Franklin Roosevelt, a transformative president when he had to become commander in chief of the armed forces, then engaged in “a global struggle against fascism.” What the author conveys so marvelously is the sense of how such seemingly ordinary Americans—e.g., Harry Truman, “a man so transparently unqualified”; Dwight Eisenhower, son of a storekeeper in Abilene, Kansas; the polarizing, paranoid Richard Nixon; good-natured Gerald Ford; peanut farmer Jimmy Carter—could bring majesty to the office.

A top-notch historian brings together recondite research with felicitous prose. An excellent choice for students of 20th-century American history.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-19-517616-2

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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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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