Among the better campaign confessionals and just the thing for presidential-politics wonks.

THE FIGHTING SOUL

ON THE ROAD WITH BERNIE SANDERS

The deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders tells war stories from the 2020 presidential run.

“Could Bernie Sanders have won the presidency?” asks Rabin-Havt toward the end of this eventful account. Though Donald Trump was a distant target, Sanders did note that “at its most basic, this election is about preserving democracy.” His real opponents were the members of the Democratic establishment. “The Democratic Party is a disorganized institution,” writes the author, “but it would organize against Bernie Sanders in a way they had not against any candidate—Democratic or Republican. Bernie’s premonition that the establishment would never let us win was coming to pass.” Granted, Sanders called himself a socialist and challenged the Democrats on numerous matters of principle and practice. Rabin-Havt portrays Sanders as alternately genially irreverent (“That, Ari, is a giant motherfucking windmill,” he noted while passing by a wind farm) and singularly focused, micromanagerial down to the details of a campaign bumper sticker and insistent on staying in small hotel rooms—not out of any political symbolism but because he likes to sleep in cold rooms, and big rooms take too long to cool down. More to the point, Sanders had unyielding views, among them that “his own words [are] sacrosanct,” meaning every word of every speech and bill went under his pen; and that government, particularly at a local level, can be an instrument for change for the good. Rabin-Havt delivers an admirable portrait of his candidate, but of more interest to students of applied politics are the numerous episodes in which he explores the art of political calculus: how Sanders decided, for instance, to attack Pete Buttigieg among the field of candidates in the Iowa caucuses as “the candidate of the wealthy elite,” along with the horse trading involved in Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan.

Among the better campaign confessionals and just the thing for presidential-politics wonks.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63149-879-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

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 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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