Summary and book reviews of Jumping at Shadows by Sasha Abramsky

Jumping at Shadows

The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream

by Sasha Abramsky

Jumping at Shadows by Sasha Abramsky
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Sep 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Cynthia C. Scott

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Book Summary

A thoughtful and insightful exploration of America's culture of fear.

Why does a disease that killed only a handful of Americans like ebola provoke panic, but the flu - which kills tens of thousands each year - is dismissed with a yawn? Why is an unarmed young black woman who knocks on a stranger's front door to ask for help after her car breaks down perceived to be so threatening that the stranger shoots her dead? In Jumping at Shadows, Sasha Abramsky sets his sights on America's most dangerous epidemic: irrational fear.

In this meditation on the paralyzing terror Americans feel when confronted with something they don't understand - from foreigners to tropical viruses to universal health care - Abramsky delivers an eye-opening analysis of our misconceptions about risk and threats, and how our brains interpret them, both at a neurological level and at a conscious one. What emerges is a journey through a political and cultural landscape that is defined by our fears, which are often misplaced. Ultimately, Abramsky shows that our fears can teach us a great deal about our society, exposing our deeply ingrained racism, classism, xenophobia, and susceptibility to the toxic messages of demagogues.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

And therein lies the beating heart of Abramsky's powerful argument. He writes with an urgency, a strong sense of purpose, and honesty about how easily a fear-driven culture—one that even the author readily admits to falling victim to—can abandon its democratic ideals. His research is impeccable, though it is often too impeccable. Jumping at Shadows effectively cuts through the white noise of contemporary America, and is for anyone wondering how we have arrived at this collective crisis point.   (Reviewed by Cynthia C. Scott).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Abramsky presents a clearly written synthesis of science and sociology. A thoughtful progressive feint against the vulgar fearmongering of the moment.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It takes a strong stomach to handle all the stressors Abramsky investigates - the stories range from Kafkaesque absurdity to nauseating cruelty - but his mild tone and deep compassion ultimately guide the reader to the only rational response: resist inflammatory rhetoric and recover a 'healthier way of living, a calmer, less vengeful notion of community'.

Library Journal

Readers interested in groupthink, sociology, or seeking insight into the current state of American politics will devour this book.

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Beyond the Book

The Tucson Samaritans

"I feel sorrow. Anger. And sometimes a little desperation," says Maria Ochoa, one of the people Sasha Abramsky interviews in his book, Jumping at Shadows. As a member of the Tucson Samaritans, a humanitarian group which aids migrants who cross the borders through the Arizona desert, she has reason to be. For more than a decade, she has provided water, food, and medical assistance to border crossers and recovered the bodies of those who didn't make it. Working with the remains of a woman who died in the desert was particularly emotional for her. "We went out to have a service for her, two weeks after they'd picked up her body. And the spot where she'd laid, the outline of her body was still there..."

Yet Ochoa, who is one of many ...

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