Interesting Yet Flawed. To be clear upfront, I am writing this review after having just finished reading this book on my Kindle Fire HD 8 (and more specifically having its text to voice feature read to me while I achievement grind in Age of Empires HD) and having seen some of the controversy of this book when coming here to leave my review.
The book itself showed promise, but how much it delivered on that promise largely depends on how much State force you find acceptable. Her points early in the text (the first chapters) about hate being mitigated by genuine community (though she never once used such a term) were enlightening and true in my own observations. But then, after covering the Rwandan Genocide, she begins advocating ever more State force in “addressing” hatred, contradicting her earlier words about voluntary community being the solution.
Overall, the text here is worthy of consideration yet has several flaws that deal it at least body blows in its recommendations, and is thus recommended yet independent consideration about the points it raises is also recommended. And thus my star ranking.
Addressing a bit of the controversy:
1) Assuming Kohn did in fact misquote at least two sources, that is a serious lack of judgment and care on both her part and everyone at her publisher involved in the printing process. This was not a self-published book, where such issues may have at least some level of understanding and forgiveness, but was instead a book published by a traditional yet small publisher, one who should have at minimum contacted cited sources and verified the veracity of the quotes used and the context in which they were used. As an extremely small independent publisher myself, this is one basic thing I would do if I ever published a nonfiction book, and no one would have to tell me to do it.
2) As wrong as the above is – and again, I find it *very* disturbing and extremely wrong – it is *just* as wrong to leave a review about a book that you have not personally read. For the purposes of review, it really doesn’t matter how one acquires the book so long as the book is at least genuinely attempted before leaving the review. (For purposes of ethics or law, obviously how one acquires the text matters.) I have little issue with the reviewer who at least attempts to read a text, throws it away in disgust, and lambasts the book in reviews detailing exactly why it was thrown away in disgust. I may disagree with it, but that at least is an honest reaction to the act of reading the text itself, and thus it at least is fair. I have major issues with a person leaving a review lambasting a book they have never attempted to read and thus attempting to cause harm to the author simply over a perceived slight rather than being honestly critical of the work in question. Again, leaving a review without actually reading the text (or more generally, using the product being reviewed) is *wrong* at least as much as Kohn and Algonquin Books were wrong in their quote issues.
But leaving this review back on the text in question: Kohn repeatedly makes the case that when we reach across the gap to try to communicate honestly yet civilly with the “other” that we begin to understand them, and in that understanding hatred is destroyed. Perhaps her detractors could learn a lesson from reading how she arrived at this conclusion as related in this very book.
This review of The Opposite of Hate by Sally Kohn was originally published on May 27, 2019.