Despite some repetition, Solnit’s passionate, shrewd, and hopeful critiques are a road map for positive change. Keep these...

WHOSE STORY IS THIS?

OLD CONFLICTS, NEW CHAPTERS

Clarion calls for social and political activism.

Readers familiar with Solnit’s most recent collections of essays, Call Them by Their True Names, the winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, will find more of the same here, laced with even more scathing and harsh assessments of our world today. In a series of sharp pieces, the author dissects a variety of timely topics, especially the sexual harassment and discrimination of women and the #MeToo movement as well as Native American rights, the anti-gun movement, white nationalism, Black Lives Matter, and climate change. Solnit argues that we live in a transformative time: “You can see change itself happening, if you watch carefully and keep track of what was versus is.” She wants to build “new cathedrals for new constituencies.” The names may have changed, but for Solnit, the stories remain the same. After recalling being sexually harassed by a cook when she was a busgirl, she goes on to discuss Harvey Weinstein and how some men in power can go to “extraordinary lengths to make somebodies into nobodies,” noting “that truth, like women, can be bullied into behaving.” In “Voter Suppression Begins at Home,” Solnit recounts personally observing how husbands can “bully and silence and control their wives,” even with mail-in ballots. She takes on Brett Kavanaugh and Jian Ghomeshi, formerly with CBC, over the “long, brutal tradition of asserting that men are credible but women are not.” She praises Christine Blasey Ford as a “welcome earthquake” for speaking out at the Kavanaugh hearing. The author also praises Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her Green New Deal and those who helped remove Confederate statues around the country—though she bemoans the fact “that there are only five statues of named women in New York City.” Donald Trump, that “dirtbag dragon,” is often held up for scorn.

Despite some repetition, Solnit’s passionate, shrewd, and hopeful critiques are a road map for positive change. Keep these collections coming.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64259-018-0

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Haymarket

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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