A timely, significant book.

"THEY CAN'T KILL US ALL"

FERGUSON, BALTIMORE, AND A NEW ERA IN AMERICA'S RACIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT

Washington Post reporter Lowery chronicles his assignment to Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of Michael Brown and how he became the newspaper's go-to journalist covering the use of deadly force against unarmed black men in other cities.

The author mixes straightforward reporting with occasional informed speculation, sometimes taking a detour to his personal saga of growing up black and wading into racially charged assignments that meant dealing with white officers and other white authorities. Lowery understands the constant dangers of policing, so he does not spin the police-involved killings to advocate for the victims when ambiguity exists. For instance, he reports that the 18-year-old Brown did steal from a store, rough up the clerk, and probably never said, "Hands up, don't shoot" to Officer Darren Wilson. On the other hand, Lowery's reporting leads him to question the use of lethal force, the lack of sensitivity by Ferguson police after the shooting, the lies disseminated by police and white politicians, the tactics that worsened the post-shooting violence, and the questionable conduct of the prosecutor in failing to file a criminal charge against Wilson. After leaving Ferguson, the author gathered information to write about police using excessive and often lethal force aimed at unarmed black males in Cleveland, Baltimore, Charleston, and elsewhere. Each case has been intense for everyone involved, and the relentless coverage began to depress and exhaust Lowery. Not all of the chapters emphasize specific deadly cases. Toward the end of the book, Lowery covers black student protests at the University of Missouri that found their genesis partly in the aftermath of the Ferguson debacle. The campus protest eventually involved the football team and led to the resignation of the university president. A bonus of the riveting narrative is its value as a journalism procedural, as Lowery and his colleagues have attempted to determine the number of police shootings nationwide involving the wounded and dead of all races.

A timely, significant book.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-31247-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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