PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt is not without flaws, which I will come back to, but on the whole it is a wide-ranging, landmark summary of the Black experience in America: searing, rich in unfamiliar detail, exploring every aspect of slavery and its continuing legacy, in which being white or Black affects everything from how you fare in courts and hospitals and schools to the odds that your neighborhood will be bulldozed for a freeway. The book’s editors, knowing that they were heading into a minefield, clearly trod with extraordinary care. They added more than 1,000 endnotes, and in their acknowledgments thank a roster of peer reviewers so long and distinguished as to make any writer of history envious ... The contributors have flair ... Part of the book’s depth lies in the way it offers unexpected links between past and present ... Again and again, The 1619 Project brings the past to life in fresh ways ... Several times, a 1619 Project writer makes a bold assertion that departs so far from conventional wisdom that it sounds exaggerated. And then comes a zinger that proves the author’s point ... In a few ways The 1619 Project falls short. Hannah-Jones, for instance, still makes too much of Abraham Lincoln’s flirtation with the idea of colonization, or encouraging Black Americans to go to Africa ... A broader issue in the book is that, with a few exceptions, such as Muhammad’s excellent article about the brutal world of sugar cultivation, the reader can too easily leave with the impression that the heritage of slavery is uniquely American. It’s not ... A final point: I wish the book had included more about the allies of Black Americans who fought against slavery or its ongoing aftermath. It barely mentions the Underground Railroad ... Despite what demagogues claim, honoring the story told in The 1619 Project and rectifying the great wrongs in it need not threaten or diminish anyone else’s experience, for they are all strands of a larger American story. Whether that fragile cloth holds together today, in the face of blatant defiance of election results and the rule of law, depends on our respect for every strand in the weave.
Svetlana Alexievich, Trans. by Bela Shayevich
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAs in many a Chekhov story, few of the people [Alexievich] records are happy ... Among believers in the dream of Soviet Communism, Alexievich finds a nostalgia for its achievements and a deep sense of loss ... It’s more surprising that Alexievich finds similar true believers among those who suffered the very worst Soviet fury ... I have a few minor quibbles with the way Alexievich weaves her rich tapestry of voices. Although the interviews are grouped by decades...she does not tell us whether she talked to someone in 1991, when the enfeebled Soviet Union was still alive, or in 2001, when it was 10 years dead. She uses many ellipses in each paragraph, which show how a monologue has been edited but give it a slightly spacey and disjointed feel. And unlike her distinguished American counterpart Studs Terkel, who sometimes set the scene in a headnote to an interview, she gives us little or no background on her subjects, usually just something as cryptic as \'Olga V., surveyor, 24.\' And when she does provide a rare headnote, her own editorial voice can intrude ... There is no need for this: She has successfully bridged the abyss.
PositiveThe New York Review of Books... is like a blast of fresh air. [Dunbar-Ortiz] is no fan of guns or of our absurdly permissive laws surrounding them. But she does not merely take the liberal side of the familiar debate.
MixedThe Washington Post\"... meandering but never boring ... Immerwahr sometimes wanders far afield, almost like a psychoanalysis patient in free association ... This book, however, is somewhat one-dimensional ... Immerwahr is right to remind us of victims like those [mentioned in the book], but the legacies of colonialism are never in colonies alone.\
MixedNew York Review of BooksHer study of the changing meanings of the \'American Dream\' and \'America First\' has the aura of too much time spent in the searchable databases of old newspapers now temptingly available to us, and too little listening to the voices of real people, whether on the campaign trail or anywhere else. Nonetheless, despite a sea of quotations...it’s clear where Churchwell’s political passion is, and her detailed genealogy of \'America First\' becomes, indirectly, something of a history of twentieth-century American racism.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksA meandering, shaggy monster of a book, it’s too long (skip the interchapter month-by-month summaries of the news events of 2016), and its first half—brilliant reporting from the campaign trail—feels only loosely joined to the second, a pained cry from the heart about the many decades of history that have led to the pickle we’re in. But in different ways both halves are dazzling. The novelist’s gifts that so inspired Billy Lynn are on full display ... What are such bait-and-switch con men [like Trump] offering? Above all, messages, once overt, then coded, today starkly overt again, about race. Fountain has a lot to say about this ... Fountain...gives the most extensive and deeply felt account of how politicians have so long blown on the coals of that fury ... One of the strengths of Beautiful Country Burn Again is that it spares nothing in showing how the Democrats, too, making use of hints and code words, have danced with that devil [of racism] ... The most glowing pages in Beautiful Country Burn Again are about what FDR tried to do with the New Deal ... He gives a particularly searing portrait of life on the vast majority of American farms in the early 1930s ... imagine if a Trump-like figure had been president during the crisis of the Depression.
RaveThe New York Review of Books... a superb piece of reporting: suspenseful, moving, and compassionate. Ultimately, it is a story of sin and redemption. Saslow seems to have persuaded almost everyone involved to talk to him and to share revealing e-mails and text messages.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksA would-be Hunter S. Thompson, he includes far more than you want to know about his own drinking, smoking, drug use, tattoos, girlfriends, beloved grandmother, and brushes with the law. Nonetheless, there is an extravagant verve to his writing ... Pogue gets in amazingly deep with these western rebels.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksGordon’s is a thoughtful explanation of the Klan’s appeal in the fast-urbanizing America of the 1920s, which was leaving behind an earlier nation based, in imagined memory, on self-sufficient yeoman farmers, proud blue-collar workers, and virtuous small-town businessmen, all of them going to the same white-steepled church on Sunday.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...a richly detailed history of the great famine ... Applebaum has painstakingly mined a vast array of sources, many of which were not available when the historian Robert Conquest wrote his pioneering history of the famine, The Harvest of Sorrow, 30 years ago: oral histories of survivors; national and local archives in Ukraine, including those of the secret police; and archives in Russia, which opened in the 1990s and then partly closed again, but not before various scholars published collections of documents from them ... It is a reminder of the lengths that demagogues will go to in order to suppress or distort the truth — something no less a problem in many a country today than it was in the Soviet Union more than eight decades ago.