A riveting, radical, essential revision of the stories we all know—and some we don't.

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PEOPLE LOVE DEAD JEWS

REPORTS FROM A HAUNTED PRESENT

A guided tour of the hypocrisy that serves as the mechanism by which antisemitism rages on unchecked.

The cold fury and in-your-face phrasing of the title of acclaimed novelist Horn's essay collection sets the tone for this brilliantly readable yet purposefully disturbing book. In the first chapter, "Everyone's (Second) Favorite Dead Jew"—presumably Jesus Christ is No. 1—Horn looks at Anne Frank, who the author believes would never have been so beloved had she survived. At the heart of Frank's myth is a passage from her diary that reads, "I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." As Horn points out, Frank was less than a month from meeting people who surely convinced her that she was wrong. The author ranges widely: the mythology of Ellis Island; the marketing of the Jewish history of Harbin, China (why call it "Property Seized from Dead or Expelled Jews" when you can call it a "Jewish Heritage Site”?); and the problematic elements of Holocaust museums and exhibits. Since these museums have not stopped people hating or killing Jews, wonders the author, what is the point of recalling the operation of the genocide at a “granular” level? Readers will be enthralled throughout by the fierce logic of Horn's arguments, novelty of research, black humor, and sharp phrasing. Particularly affecting is "Commuting With Shylock," in which Horn describes how she listened to an audio version of The Merchant of Venice with her precocious 10-year-old son, stopping frequently to explain key points. His clarity about the meaning of the "prick us, do we not bleed" speech is a revelation. Though Horn briefly mentions Zionism as a key aspect of Jewish heritage, one subject not discussed here is how the complex situation in the Middle East—characterized by dead Jews and dead Palestinians—fits into her analysis.

A riveting, radical, essential revision of the stories we all know—and some we don't.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-393-53156-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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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