A slim but cogent historical examination of America’s most potent symbol.




An exploration of the history and symbolism of the American flag.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama invoked the flag during speeches, demonstrating the durability of Old Glory as a national symbol. Teachout gives context to such political use, pointing out that it was Mark Hanna, William McKinley’s campaign manager, who was the first to effectively co-opt the flag as a political tool. One 1896 McKinley campaign button had no name or picture of the candidate—just the Stars and Stripes. Teachout shows that debate over the flag reaches all the way back to the founding of the United States, noting that it has been used for various, sometimes contradictory, ends: “It asks us to understand the varied impulses of American patriotism, to reexamine categories of ‘right’ and left’—both of which have at one time or another laid claim to the flag—and to reacquaint ourselves with our shared American values.” In 1844, anti-immigration rioters used the flag as a symbol of white, Protestant, native-born citizens, and groups as disparate as the Ku Klux Klan and civil-rights protesters have claimed the flag as their symbol. The first American flag, hoisted on the rigging of a warship in December 1775, was a flag of rebellion. During the Civil War, Union soldiers sang dozens of anti-rebel songs about the flag. The events of 9/11 reignited the debate, and Teachout makes the case that its widespread use illustrates the depth of patriotism—however it’s interpreted—in American society. “To fly the flag,” he writes, “is to stake an active claim to the promise of an American dream that draws its inspiration from the founders and is continuously renewed.”

A slim but cogent historical examination of America’s most potent symbol.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-465-00209-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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...


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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