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THE AMERICAN CRISIS

WHAT WENT WRONG. HOW WE RECOVER.

An illuminating collection of perceptive, well-argued, and compelling essays.

Essayists reflect on the current state of the nation.

In keeping with the Atlantic’s goal of “debating and illuminating America’s meaning and purpose,” editor at large Murphy gathers 40 incisive essays from an impressive roster of contributors. “How did we get here?” editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg asks in his introduction. “How did our politics become so appalling and dispiriting? How did a system meant to elevate the most qualified among us instead place a grifter in Lincoln’s house? How did the gaps between rich and poor, men and women, black and white, immigrant and American-born, become so profound?” The essays are grouped into four sections: the first looks at “underlying conditions of society as a whole that have been deteriorating for decades.” The second examines the failure of politics; the third covers the disastrous Trump presidency; and the last focuses on the possibility for the nation’s reinvention. Contributors consider issues such as racial inequality, cultural divides and polarization, climate change, voter suppression, the plight of undocumented immigrants, and evangelical Christians, who regard themselves, "hysterically and with self-pity, as an oppressed minority that requires a strongman to rescue it.” Former Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust melds history with a memoir of her childhood in Virginia, “a world in which silences distorted lives, and falsehoods perpetuated structures of power rooted in centuries of injustice.” In a moving portrait of a Baltimore resident struggling with health problems, staff writer Olga Khazan sees that “America’s racist and segregationist history continues to harm black people in the most intimate of ways—seeping into their lungs, their blood, even their DNA.” Caitlin Flanagan rails against rich parents’ sense of entitlement, which she experienced firsthand as a guidance counselor at a tony prep school. Among many unsettling pieces are profiles of Newt Gingrich, Paul Manafort, Ivanka Trump, and, most disturbingly, conspiracy theorists enraptured with QAnon. Other top-notch contributors include Anne Applebaum, George Packer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram X. Kendi, and Yuval Noah Harari.

An illuminating collection of perceptive, well-argued, and compelling essays.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982157-03-6

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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