A standout book of sociological history and current affairs.

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An impressive book-length answer to a question few of us consider: “Why do street addresses matter?”

In her first book, Mask, a North Carolina–born, London-based lawyer–turned-writer who has taught at Harvard and the London School of Economics—combines deep research with skillfully written, memorable anecdotes to illuminate the vast influence of street addresses as well as the negative consequences of not having a fixed address. Many readers probably assume that a street address exists primarily to receive mail from the postal office, FedEx, UPS, and other carriers. Throughout this eye-opening book, the author clearly demonstrates that package deliveries constitute a minuscule part of the significance of addresses—not only today, but throughout human history. Venturing as far back as ancient times, Mask explores how the Romans navigated their cities and towns. She describes the many challenges of naming streets in modern-day Kolkata (Calcutta), India, where countless mazes of squalid alleys lack formal addresses. “The lack of addresses,” writes the author, “was depriving those living in the slums a chance to get out of them. Without an address, it’s nearly impossible to get a bank account”—and the obstacles compound from there. Mask also delves into the controversies in South Africa regarding addresses, issues exacerbated by apartheid and its aftermath. In the U.S., one can track racist undertones via streets named for Confederate icons such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The author offers insightful commentary regarding the fact that U.S. roadways named for Martin Luther King Jr. are usually found in poverty-stricken urban areas, and she addresses the many problems associated with homelessness. She also explores the dark period of Nazi Germany when street names identified where concentrations of Jews lived, making it easier for them to be rounded up and sent to the death camps. In a chapter prominently featuring Donald Trump, Mask explains the monetary and prestige values of specific addresses in New York City. Other stops on the author’s tour include Haiti, London, Vienna, Korea, Japan, Iran, and Berlin.

A standout book of sociological history and current affairs.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-13476-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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