An impassioned call for continued efforts for change.



A hard-hitting revisionist history of civil rights activism.

Theoharis (Political Science/Brooklyn Coll.; The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, 2013, etc.) argues persuasively that the reality of the civil rights movement has become a benign national fable, invoked by public officials and liberals to assert their “enlightened bona fides” and by critics of activist groups such as Black Lives Matter in an effort to silence them. Central to this fable are distorted images of Rosa Parks, depicted as a quiet, meek woman, and Martin Luther King Jr., whose achievements are attributed to his “loving, nonviolent approach.” As activist Julian Bond once put it, “the narrative of the movement has been reduced to ‘Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, then the white folks saw the light and saved the day.’ ” Theoharis strongly believes that turning the civil rights movement into “museum history” promotes the false idea of “an exceptional America moving past its own racism.” She also points out that racism is not limited to the South; she shows how the “polite racism” of the North “framed resistance to desegregation in the language of ‘neighborhood schools,’ ‘taxpayer’s rights,’ and ‘forced busing.’ ” Denying personal animosity toward blacks, Northerners revealed racism in “silence, coded language, and the demonization of dissent.” Theoharis takes the media to task for their coverage of uprisings in Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York; reporters, she writes, failed to investigate the “racial inequities embedded in their city’s schools, policing, or municipal structures” and presented the violence as a stunning surprise rather than the culmination “of a protracted struggle.” Similarly, she criticizes the movie Detroit (2017) for “completely erasing the history of Black life and activism in the city” before the killings depicted. She also criticizes Barack Obama, who as candidate and president warned black men not to use racism as an excuse for personal failure, thereby diverting focus from civil rights organizing to “inward self-help.” Chronicling the efforts of many activists, the author underscores her message that reform requires courage and hard work.

An impassioned call for continued efforts for change.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-7587-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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