Cautionary pieces well-informed by history, legal theory, and patriotism, all bubbling in a cauldron of anxiety.

CAN IT HAPPEN HERE?

AUTHORITARIANISM IN AMERICA

A renowned legal scholar assembles a dream team of other legal authorities and cultural and political analysists to ponder the title, substance, and current relevance of It Can’t Happen Here (1935), Sinclair Lewis’ provocative novel about the rise of fascism in America.

The 17 essayists here tend to agree on a couple of fundamental points. First, it’s not likely that American democracy will implode and a fascist phoenix will arise from the ashes, but it is still possible. Second, Donald Trump is ignorant and dangerous. The writers take a variety of approaches to the titular question. Some look at key moments in American history when the country did step away from its professed adherence to liberal democracy—e.g., Abraham Lincoln suspending habeas corpus; Jim Crow in the South; the roundup of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. There are essays about the importance of the legal system in a democracy, which is not surprising since most of the essays are by legal scholars; how a would-be dictator could proceed in the United States (slowly); the current factors that are worrisome, including low voter turnout, public ignorance of the issues, polarizing media and social media, the dominance of a two-party system; and significant historical parallels (the rise of Napoleon III). Oddly, none of the essayists discuss slavery or Native American reservations; nor does anyone say much about the fractured system of public education that makes it almost impossible for poor communities to afford to educate their children. But what they do discuss is worrisome and more than a bit depressing. Although most of the essayists are moderately sanguine about our survival, most see a pathway that a patient autocrat could take to delete and/or attenuate key Constitutional provisions—especially those most precious freedoms of speech and the press.

Cautionary pieces well-informed by history, legal theory, and patriotism, all bubbling in a cauldron of anxiety.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-269619-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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