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book reviews



  • The World of Edward Said

    by Esmat Elhalaby

    Previous biographies of the Arab scholar and Palestinian advocate Edward Said have either reduced him to his more provocative political statements or treated those politics as a pose. A new biography by Timothy Brennan examines the connections between intellectual life and a global community of activists. 



  • On the Life and Legacy of Black Journalist Louis Lomax (Review)

    by Joshua Clark Davis

    Louis Lomax was a provocateur, and was comfortable writing critically about both moderate and militant participants in the Black freedom movement; Thomas Aiello's new biography examines the complicated figure in African American journalism. 



  • The Book That Stopped an Outbreak of Nuclear War

    Serhii Plokhy adds new insight to the Cuban Missile Crisis by examining the domestic political context of the Soviet Union and the political incentives toward nuclear brinksmanship. 



  • Methods of Power: How do Authoritarians Rule? (Review)

    by David A. Bell

    Is Trumpism a fascist movement or a response to a power vacuum created by decades of neoliberal policies? Historian David A. Bell reviews Ruth Ben-Ghiat's "Strongmen" and argues that the book misses the specific context of Trumpism by making him an archetype of the authoritarian ruler. 



  • Remembering is Resistance

    by Jessica M. Parr

    Books by Ana Lucia Araujo and Joan Wallach Scott examine the politics of memory and history and explain the stakes of fights over teaching and memorializing oppression. 



  • The Age of Care (Review of Gabriel Winant's "The Next Shift")

    by Nelson Lichtenstein

    Labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein says Gabriel Winant's book on the rise of the care industry is the story of community change in the last 50 years, with union retiree health care dollars reabsorbed by capital through the treatment of diseases of despair provoked by deindustrialization (with care provided by a workforce of women and people of color).



  • Beyond Gay Imperialism

    by Samuel Huneke

    Do global campaigns for LGBTQ civil rights that originate in affluent Western societies reproduce the "civilizing mission" trope of colonialism, or use the goal of antidiscrimination to buttress the influence of wealthy nations? A historian considers a new book on global gay rights.



  • Why Did the Slave Trade Survive So Long?

    by James Oakes

    James Oakes reviews John Harris's new book "The Last Slave Ships: New York and the End of the Middle Passage," and praises its insight into the late years of the slave trade and slavery's relationship to capitalism. 


  • "Freedom of the Press in Small-Town America"

    by Robert W. Frizzell

    A review of HNN contributor Steven Hochstadt's new book of collected op-ed essays written between 2009 and 2018. The writings of a liberal Long Island Jew in a small-town midwestern newspaper offer a lens onto the question of the cultural divide in contemporary America. 


  • Should Black Northerners Move Back to the South?

    by Tanisha C. Ford

    Historian Tanisha C. Ford reviews Charles M. Blow's book, which advocates for a Reverse Great Migration to empower both Black Americans and progressive policies. She concludes it's an intriguing idea but oversimplifies the history of migration, disenfranchisement, and activism by Black southerners and their allies.



  • The Broken System: What Comes After Meritocracy?

    by Elizabeth Anderson

    Philosopher Elizabeth Anderson reviews Michael Sandel's critique of meritocracy, a book that locates an explanation for the Trumpian moment in the rise of competitive individualism in the platforms of both major parties. 



  • Backlash Forever (Review Essay)

    by Gabriel Winant

    Historian Gabriel Winant reviews two recent books about the past and present of reactionary white working class politics and considers whether this tendency can be overcome. 



  • The Conservative Case Against the Boomers

    by Ben Wallace-Wells

    Reviewed: Helen Andrews' "Boomers," which indicts the affluent and influential members of that generation from a conservative Catholic perspective for delivering freedom only for their advantaged cohort while establishing a debased and decadent set of cultural norms. 



  • When Democracy Ails, Magic Thrives

    by Samuel Clowes-Huneke

    A new book by historian Monica Black suggests that the irrational was never absent from the postwar order—and, moreover, that florid eruptions of mystical thinking often accompany periods of extreme political upheaval.