Reviews

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Many American correspondents in the Middle East start out with an attraction not just to the adrenaline but to the exotic. They fall a little bit in love with the mullah's wail in moonlight and the scent of cardamom, even if the scent is tainted by shallow graves and the prayer calls punctuated with the sound of gunfire, off in the distance.

As a journalist on this turf, Sulome Anderson is sui generis. Not only is she both American and Lebanese, and so immune to the exotic; she is also the daughter of Terry Anderson. In 1985, while he was the Associated Press bureau chief for the Middle East, Terry Anderson was kidnapped and spent almost seven years in captivity, long before ISIS was a gleam in some mullah's eye, when hostage taking -- not beheading -- was deemed by militant Islamists and their affiliates to be sufficient to sow fear in the enemy.

Read the rest in the New York Times Here

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The Trump administration has just devoted much of its first 50 days writing and then re-writing a contentious immigration ban that is supposed to make America safer. Meanwhile, a hurting nation awaits triage that has nothing to do with Muslims or Mexicans. As Trump himself well knows, small towns and rural areas from coast to coast are in dire economic straits, challenged by lost jobs and an opioid epidemic.

Brian Alexander's devastating new book, Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town, explains how the enemy is already within our borders--and no immigration ban could have protected us. In fact, some of them are advising the Trump administration.

Alexander, a journalist, grew up in Lancaster, Ohio, in the 1960s. The town, home to Anchor Hocking Glass Company, was so prosperous in the 1940s that Forbes magazine devoted a cover story to it as the all-American town, crowning it, as Alexander writes, "the epitome and apogee of the American free enterprise system." As Forbes saw it, the town and its company worked in perfect harmony.

Life in Lancaster was indeed sweet. When Alexander was growing up, his father worked at the glass factory, which had been pumping out ware since the turn of the century. He recalls a Norman Rockwell-mythic place of happy, healthy children, unlocked doors, prosperous parents and good schools. But starting in the 1980s, financial Darth Vaders came swooping down from Wall Street and started manipulating the company in order to squeeze cash out. Over the next two decades, two of Donald Trump's advisors, corporate raider Carl Icahn, and then private equity king Stephen Feinberg, tore into the company's books, manipulating its stock, forcing it to take on debt, and slowly chopping it up like a Thanksgiving turkey, picking the bones clean and leaving the town without its core industry.

Read the rest here

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New York Times Book Review 11/03/17

ORIANA FALLACI
The Journalist, the Agitator, the Legend
By Cristina De Stefano
Translated by Marina Harss
Illustrated. 282 pp. Other Press. $25.95.

Someone should write an opera about her: La Fallaci, beautiful, extravagant, courageous survivor of war and tempestuous love affairs, speaker of truth to power. But for now, Cristina De Stefano's new biography of the Italian journalistic superstar Oriana Fallaci -- unabashed hagiography to counter the writer's late-life reputational demise -- must suffice.

Full review here.

THE NEWCOMERS
Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom
By Helen Thorpe
396 pp. Scribner. $28.

Steve Bannon, we hear you. Too many white middle-class Americans, victimized by globalization, are struggling. Resources are scarce enough for people who were born right here.

Build the Wall! Build the Wall!

But maybe Americans are not as flinty a race as we appear to be when we're chanting at rallies. While President Trump was campaigning on the wall, Helen Thorpe spent a year inside a "newcomer class" for teenage refugees from Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Central America.

Her resulting book, "The Newcomers," is a delicate and heartbreaking mystery story, as Thorpe slowly uncovers the secret catastrophes in the lives of young immigrants at South High School in Denver. They arrive mute, and they gradually gain the words and confidence to describe the journeys that led to the classroom.

Thorpe's parents emigrated from Ireland in 1965, when Thorpe was a year old, and she has written about young Mexican immigrants in America. A discerning chronicler of cultural misunderstanding, she started the book just as nativist resentment became a political movement.

Read the rest at the New York Times here.

The 2007 murder of 22-year-old British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, captured the world's attention because of the woman eventually convicted of killing her: 20-year-old Seattle native and fellow student Amanda Knox. Burleigh (Mirage: Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt) examines the intertwined lives of the students and the media circus surrounding the trial in this powerful example of narrative nonfiction. In July 2007, Knox moved into a house shared with Kercher and two older Italian women. On November 2, Kercher was found with her throat slit in her bedroom, and Knox and Raffaele Sollecito--whom she'd started seeing only a few days earlier--were first on the scene. Giuliano Mignini, the notoriously tough Perugian prosecutor, charged them with murder, adding their acquaintance Rudy Guede when evidence placed him at the crime scene. The protracted trial was awash with what Burleigh describes as faulty forensic evidence and testimony that was more rumor than substantiated fact, but Knox was convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison; she is appealing her conviction. Burleigh, who parses how the Knox trial was perhaps tainted, still presents a fair and unbiased portrait of a girl adrift in a foreign legal system and a culture rife with preconceptions about young American women, 15 b&w photos; 2 maps. (Aug.)

Publishers Weekly Starred Review of The Fatal Gift, here.

Read the Daily Beast Review of The fatal Gift of Beauty here.
04/04/08

Trails of Tears

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A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE
Rediscovering the New World
By Tony Horwitz
Henry Holt. 445 pp. $27.50

Travel journalism is a lot like traveling salesmanship -- lots of windshield time, bad food and people who really don't want to talk to you. Tony Horwitz gamely forges on, without a limo or tour guide waiting at the airport. He rents his own cars and drives himself to the nearest saloon or hardware store in search of a loquacious local, who then becomes the reader's tour guide as well. For Horwitz, this serendipitous working style means subjecting himself to the vicissitudes of Third World car rental and roadside diner food, the boredom of the American highway and the torments of thin-walled motels. For readers, it unearths some gems. Continue Reading on The Washington Post
11/07/07

Votes and Vows

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For love of Politics
Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years  
By Sally Bedell Smith 
Random House. 572 pp. $27.95

There's a bedtime story for girls of a certain age. It's called Hillary and the Horrible, Ghastly, Unconscionable Secrets and Lies of Men. We've heard it before, but somehow we never tire of it. The moral is that men find women less attractive in direct proportion to the strength of our careers. Every last one of our husbands might run off with the babysitter. To blunt a biblical fact of life -- men are different from women, and some are more different than others -- we like explanations that lay the blame for Bill Clinton's infidelity at least partly on his wife. A successful wife to Bill Clinton would have had to be a full-time, full-service, round-the-clock succubus, but that doesn't give Hillary a pass. Continue Reading at The Washington Post
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Every decade or so, a young, very smart, often photogenic woman comes along and produces a book that identifies an ugly fact of female life in America. Susan Brownmiller, Naomi Wolf and Susan Faludi have all contributed to this canon. Now attempting to join them is Ariel Levy, who presents us with the problem of the moment: young women eagerly participating in their own degradation by dressing, acting and physically remaking themselves as though Hugh Hefner owned the rights to their bodies. Continue Reading at The New York Observer
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Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor
by Rick Marin. Hyperion, 284 pages, $23.95.

Everyone knows that Manhattan is filled with women who can status-check in a nanosecond. A flick-of-the-eyes subway scan tells them if the shoes are Prada or knockoff, how much the purse cost, whether the highlights came from Anna Wintour's latest salon pet or the storefront Jean Louis David colorist. Continue reading at The New York Observer