Timely, controversial, and bound to stir already heated discussion.

NOBODY

CASUALTIES OF AMERICA'S WAR ON THE VULNERABLE, FROM FERGUSON TO FLINT AND BEYOND

An impassioned analysis of headline-making cases of police shootings and other acts of “state violence” against blacks and other minorities.

Journalist and BET News host Hill (African-American Studies/Morehouse Coll.; co-author: Schooling Hip-hop: Expanding Hip-hop Based Education Across the Curriculum, 2013, etc.) argues that the deaths of Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and others are instances of “an increasingly intense war on the vulnerable.” The victims—“Nobodies”—are “Black, poor, trans, queer, or otherwise marked as disposable within the public imagination.” America’s obsession with “free market logic and culture” has devalued the public good and inspired policies that wreak havoc on the vulnerable. For example, the “broken windows” concept of policing, which encourages enforcement of laws against minor crimes, sometimes overcriminalizes harmless rule-breaking. During one such “quality of life” arrest for selling loose cigarettes, Eric Garner, an asthmatic New Yorker, who had been selling “loosies” on the street for years without police interference, was placed in a choke hold and died while repeatedly crying, “I can’t breathe.” In recounting the stories of such incidents, Hill offers valuable perspective and much to ponder: Bland, a young Texas driver who apparently failed to signal and had been impertinent to police before her arrest, was found hanging dead in her jail cell. Deemed a suicide, she had much to live for. Brown, fleeing from a convenience store robbery, was shot dead in the back in Ferguson, Missouri. He was hardly innocent, notes Hill, but “one should not need to be innocent to avoid execution.” By the same token, the behavior of Walter Scott, a South Carolina motorist who resisted arrest and fled after being stopped for a broken taillight, did not warrant death by “excessive force.” Hill’s incisive thumbnail histories of the decaying communities of Ferguson and Flint, Michigan, where government actions led to a water crisis, lend credence to his sometimes-strident insistence that societal forces are stacked against our weakest members.

Timely, controversial, and bound to stir already heated discussion.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2494-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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