Though brief, this collection of urgent reports deserves a wide audience—and not just in Mexico.


A steely band of courageous Mexican journalists respond to the violence and corruption overwhelming their country—to great personal and professional peril.

In a series of elucidating and chilling dispatches, expertly translated by a variety of translators, seven well-respected journalists reveal Mexico’s “suppurating wound,” as described by Elena Poniatowska in the powerful preface. Each of the pieces in this work shows an absolute assault on justice and human rights: narcotics trafficking, organized crime, sex trafficking, femicide, violent peasant land struggles, disappeared youth, egregious government coverups, torture, and widespread murder. A recent haunting crime that overshadows several of these dispatches is the Sept. 26, 2014, abduction and disappearance of 43 students on their way to Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Guerrero, one of the most violent narcotics trafficking states in Mexico. In “Collateral Damage—Living in Mexico,” Juan Villoro, a weekly columnist for Reforma, chronicles the horrendous violence that has overwhelmed the country since President Felipe Calderón’s disastrous war on drug trafficking began in 2006. “The problem…had been around for a long time,” he writes. “But the strategy failed. We were sitting on dynamite and Calderón lit a match to prove it.” In a developing country like Mexico, where a handful of families control the wealth, there is little opportunity for youth to advance outside the cartels, which provide what Villoro calls a sense of “identity and shared codes.” The crimes these journalists delineate seem to have no rhyme or reason save desperation and poverty—e.g., the young women pressed into sex slavery by boyfriends, documented by Diego Enrique Osorno in “Lily Sings Like a Little Bird.” Marcela Turati’s “War Made Me a Feminist” is a heart-rending look at how the violence has devastated women, mothers especially. With a recorded 94 journalists murdered in Mexico between 2000 and 2016 (documented in an appendix), the country has become one of the deadliest places to practice that profession.

Though brief, this collection of urgent reports deserves a wide audience—and not just in Mexico.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-85705-622-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hachette UK

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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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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