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book reviews



  • "This Obstinate Little Man": Tom Segev on Ben-Gurion as the King Lear of Zionism

    "Ben-Gurion was not a saint and should not be made into one posthumously. An unvarnished account of his vices is essential, but so is an appreciation of his merits." A reviewer says Tom Segev's new biography sheds little light on his influence over the Zionist movement and the Israeli state.



  • Rebel is Right: Reassessing the Cultural Revolution

    by Chaohua Wang

    A new book by the Chinese scholar Yang Jisheng examines the Chinese Cultural Revolution's lasting impact on the Communist Party, concluding that the generation of party leaders who experienced it were indifferent to utopianism but deeply attracted to the exercise of absolute power. 



  • What Is Owed: The Limits of Darity and Mullen's Case For Reparations

    by William P. Jones

    A historian argues that a recent and influential book calling for reparations could strengthen its case by considering the arguments made by historians about the connections of American slavery to other manifestations of racism. What's needed is to link reparations to a global overturning of racial inequality.



  • Where America Went Wrong in Afghanistan (Review Essay)

    by Fredrik Logevall

    "It will be up to historians of the future, writing with broad access to official documents and with the kind of detachment that only time brings, to fully explain the remarkable early-morning scene at Bagram and all that led up to it. But there’s much we can already learn — abundant material is available."



  • The Liberals Who Weakened Trust in Government

    by Kim Phillips-Fein

    Historian Kim Phillips-Fein writes that Paul Sabin's new book "Public Citizens" adds to understanding of the rise of conservatism and the power of attacks on "big government" by focusing on the role of liberal public interest groups in exposing the capture of the liberal regulatory state by big business interests. 



  • What is Left of the New Deal?

    by Michael Kazin

    Eric Rauchway's book on the New Deal stresses that FDR believed democracy could survive only if people accepted, and government supported, their mutual dependence on one another. Preserving the New Deal political order means recognizing and celebrating its tangible achievements. 



  • The Revolution that Wasn't: What did 1960s Radicals Achieve?

    by Michael Kazin

    A new book of narrative history of the 1960s New Left repeats a common error: mistaking rhetoric for revolution and ignoring a key outcome of the decade: that the right emerged more powerful, argues reviewer Michael Kazin. 



  • The Color Line (Review Essay)

    by Annette Gordon-Reed

    New books examine the innovations in data-driven research that WEB DuBois developed as intellectual weapons in his battle against the rising tide of global white supremacy in the early 20th century. 



  • The Unknown History of Black Uprisings

    by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

    Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor reviews Elizabeth Hinton's new "America on Fire" and explains how it shakes up established accounts of a "good" and "nonviolent" civil rights movement giving way to protest and violence.



  • In Fury We Trust (Review of Sarah Shulman)

    Sarah Shulman's book seeks to recover the histories of AIDS activists beyond white gay men, using two decades of oral history work to show the breadth of a coalition including women, lesbians, people of color, drug users, and the incarcerated, who all experienced the stakes of AIDS differently. 



  • The Professor Who Became a Cop

    Patrick Blanchfield reviews "Tangled Up In Blue," Rosa Brooks's account of joining the DC Police Reserve Corps and meditation on the role of policing in society. 



  • Narrative Napalm: Malcolm Gladwell's Apologia for American Butchery

    by Noah Kulwin

    Reviewer Noah Kulwin argues Malcolm Gladwell's book on the rise of American air power misrepresents the military history of World War II, wrongly elevates Curtis LeMay to the status of a heroic genius, and blithely passes over the vast carnage of incendiary and atomic bombings. 



  • Recasting the ‘Riots’ of the 1960s as Rebellions by Blacks Under Siege

    by Peniel E. Joseph

    Peniel Joseph reviews Elizabeth Hinton's new book "America On Fire" and says it "reconceptualizes the Black freedom struggle between the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Lives Matter 2.0 demonstrations that galvanized the nation, and much of the world, in 2020."



  • 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.