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Publisher's Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From an award-winning journalist at The Atlantic, these searing essays make a powerful case that “real hope lies not in a sunny nostalgia for American greatness but in seeing this history plain—in all of its brutality, unadorned by euphemism” (The New York Times).

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • “No writer better demonstrates how American dreams are so often sabotaged by American history. Adam Serwer is essential.”—Ta-Nehisi Coates

To many, our most shocking political crises appear unprecedented—un-American, even. But they are not, writes The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer in this prescient essay collection, which dissects the most devastating moments in recent memory to reveal deeply entrenched dynamics, patterns as old as the country itself. The January 6 insurrection, anti-immigrant sentiment, and American authoritarianism all have historic roots that explain their continued power with or without President Donald Trump—a fact borne out by what has happened since his departure from the White House.

Serwer argues that Trump is not the cause, he is a symptom. Serwer’s phrase “the cruelty is the point” became among the most-used descriptions of Trump’s era, but as this book demonstrates, it resonates across centuries. The essays here combine revelatory reporting, searing analysis, and a clarity that’s bracing. In this new, expanded version of his bestselling debut, Serwer elegantly dissects white supremacy’s profound influence on our political system, looking at the persistence of the Lost Cause, the past and present of police unions, the mythology of migration, and the many faces of anti-Semitism. In so doing, he offers abundant proof that our past is present and demonstrates the devastating costs of continuing to pretend it’s not. The Cruelty Is the Point dares us, the reader, to not look away.

©2021 Adam Serwer (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Serwer’s writing has been indispensable to understanding the chaotic world around us. Incisive, elegant, and deeply anchored in history, The Cruelty Is the Point is an essential guide to a perilous time in American life.” (Jelani Cobb, New Yorker contributor and author of The Substance of Hope)

“Adam Server is the most incisive political writer of our time.” (Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

“The essays in The Cruelty Is the Point combine an unsparing accounting of our history with an astute examination of our present.” (Wesley Lowery, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of They Can’t Kill Us All

What listeners say about The Cruelty Is the Point

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excellent thoughtful writing, rare these days

The author doesn't attempt shock or gotcha writing or any sort of phony drama. No shallow fear mongering or false bravado. This is well crafted, intended to make the reader better informed about the subject even before the author presents a deliberate and articulate position. needs to be read more than once.

23 people found this helpful

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Excellent

I think if I had to pick just one book to listen to for the year, it would be this book. Excellent analysis. Easy to understand. Great flow and little stories lost in history brought back for us to contemplate. Would make a great gift to anyone that likes history and politics.

15 people found this helpful

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New insights into an age-old problem

This book provides a new look at the wide-ranging, seemingly perpetual problem of racism. It illustrates the problem with well chosen anecdotes mostly from the African American and Jewish diaspora experience - fittingly told by a gifted author who represents the best of both traditions.

To my ears, the narration started off a bit detached, but kept getting better as the book progressed to its thought provoking conclusion.

Strongly recommended for all people concerned about “Quo Vadis, America”. Five stars for taking a critical look at America’s never ending war within its democracy during these externally threatening times.

13 people found this helpful

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Incredible

Really well written and researched. Serwer draws a straight line through American history to our present, a telling of history that I hadn’t been aware of (and I got a 5 on my AP U.S. History exam!) Thought provoking and engaging.

7 people found this helpful

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Fatigue factor

The narrator spoke so fast that listening became exhausting. I reduced the narration to .8 and it became tolerable. Listening should be enjoyable, not a chore.

6 people found this helpful

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Great if you haven’t read his articles

It’s a great compilation of articles written by the author, but not much new if you’re already familiar. Worth the time

5 people found this helpful

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Great Book

This critical analysis of U.S. history, which explains our present through our past and how racial lines have been drawn between black and white throughout history, is a must read for everyone. It helped me understand my own privilege and bias in the face of continued oppression of black people in America. I hope to see more from Adam Serwer in the future. He gives a voice to the voiceless and identifies how we got so divided. I hope we can use this to make changes in this country.

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent

I loved this book. It flows well and touches on many socioeconomic issues in our country.

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Nothing new here

Serwer thinks America is a force for evil. In his world view, we probably should have just let the nazis win because America is no better. He sees nothing to be proud of in the American ideals. He thinks violent looting protests that resulted in the burning of buildings as "protected by the first amendment." The most interesting essay is on immigration.

2 people found this helpful

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We must learn from our past.

I continue to look backwards in hope that I can see my future. History is the solution whisperer.

1 person found this helpful