Sure to be controversial, as books about Middle Eastern policy tend to be, but a welcome, well-informed contribution.

EXCEPT FOR PALESTINE

THE LIMITS OF PROGRESSIVE POLITICS

A focused look at the obdurate problem of Palestinian-Israeli relations and the Americans on both sides of the issue.

Media studies scholar Hill and Middle East foreign policy specialist Plitnick open with an example of what might appear to be contradictory stances among American progressives: outrage at the Trump administration’s immigration policy yet apparent silence when, soon after Trump deployed soldiers to the southern border, that administration cut off funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which “provides emergency food, shelter, medication, supplies, and medication to millions of Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank, Gaza, and camps in neighboring countries.” There was hardly any policy discussion on the matter, and those few progressives who did raise objections went unheeded. The Obama administration, note the authors, was little more concerned with Palestinian human rights issues, and, they add, things are likely to get worse. Gaza in particular is projected to be uninhabitable soon, and those who live there do so under the baleful eye of the Israeli military and a government that, in 2018, declared that “only Jews can exercise national self-determination in Israel.” The authors argue that human rights should become the “primary predicate for U.S. policy in the region.” They also examine the efficacy of various means of Palestinian resistance, winning no diplomatic points for nonviolence, even as Israel continues to view the situation as a zero-sum game: “Peaceful coexistence, while not entirely ruled out, is seen as too risky a gamble.” In their clear and evenhanded analysis, the authors conclude that progressives must work to dismantle injustices, many of which are perpetuated by the U.S. government, and in turn, to hold the Israeli government “accountable for its actions in the region, and especially for its denial of basic rights to Palestinians.”

Sure to be controversial, as books about Middle Eastern policy tend to be, but a welcome, well-informed contribution.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62097-592-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

PLAYING WITH MYSELF

Debut memoir from the popular comedian, actor, and writer.

In his debut memoir, Rainbow (“my very real last name”) shares his memories, beginning with his star turn in a backyard production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on his eighth birthday. Growing up on Long Island with a “showbiz-positive family,” the author depicts a flamboyant childhood influenced by his grandmother and her celebrity fascinations. “My eight-year-old childhood bedroom,” he notes, “looked more like the men’s room at a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen.” Rainbow’s engagement with ballet classes and musical theater provoked relentless schoolyard bullying until a family move to Florida introduced him to the unique strengths to be found in coming out and celebrating his obsession with his “lord and savior,” Barbra Streisand. As his parents’ relationship deteriorated, Manhattan beckoned. In between auditions, Rainbow worked as the “jovial gay boy at the host stand” at Hooters. Honing his stand-up comedy skills, he started a blog, which branched off into a series of comedic video sketches that satirized, among other topics, a fictional relationship with Mel Gibson and a tryout for American Idol. When Rainbow began delving into political parodies, particularly his skewering of the chaotic 2016 presidential campaign, his fame exploded. “For the first few years of Trump,” he writes, “I basically lived inside a giant green screen.” Still, he admits that his career has been a constant hustle and that the isolating cross-country tours “ain’t for sissies.” Rapidly paced comic absurdities fill the remainder of the book, as the author provides anecdotes about his struggles to remain upbeat and social media relevant in the fickle entertainment world despite multiple Emmy nominations. In the concluding chapters, the author openly discusses the public backlash from past controversial comments on Twitter, which he attributes to “sloppy efforts as a young comedian” to be funny. Buoyant and campy throughout, Rainbow’s revelations and lighthearted banter will entertain fans and newbies alike.

A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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