A refreshing alternative to the dismal views of Africa’s prospects that pervade the press.

NEW NEWS OUT OF AFRICA

UNCOVERING AFRICA’S RENAISSANCE

Despite HIV/AIDS, oppressive governments, genocide and poverty, the winds of hope are blowing across much of Africa, declares one of the most celebrated names in American racial history.

The first black woman to graduate from the University of Georgia, Hunter-Gault (In My Place, 1992) now lives in South Africa and travels around the continent as a correspondent for NPR. She has seen much to cheer her. The three segments of this new work are revisions of three lectures she gave in 2003 at Harvard, where she was a fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research. The author contends that people in the West have been getting only “old” news from Africa about what she calls the Four D’s: death, disease, disaster and despair. No Pollyanna, Hunter-Gault is quick to acknowledge that these conditions remain grave. She discusses the genocide in Darfur, the enormity of the AIDS pandemic, unemployment and poverty, the repression and corruption that still characterize business-as-usual in too many African nations. But she also sees more and more of what she calls “new news”: political and charitable organizations, determined and fearless journalists, hopeful and courageous people, many of whom, despite having little formal training and technological expertise, are devoted to the causes of democracy and human rights on the continent. Much of the author’s optimism is based on opinions formed during her travels and interviews with Africans at every economic and political level. But she is sanguine, as well, because of enlightened political movements and organizations such as the New Partnership for African Development and the Pan-African Parliament. She believes that the West can best help African states by forgiving debts, many of which were incurred when tyrants misappropriated Western loans, and she urges Western media to focus more on African progress and less on the Four D’s.

A refreshing alternative to the dismal views of Africa’s prospects that pervade the press.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-19-517747-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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