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Publisher's Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER •

From an award-winning journalist at The Atlantic, these searing essays make a damning case that cruelty is not merely an unfortunate byproduct of the Trump administration but its main objective and the central theme of the American project. 

“No writer better demonstrates how American dreams are so often sabotaged by American history. Adam Serwer is essential.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Trump summoned the most treacherous forces in American history and conducted them with the ease of a grand maestro.”

Like many of us, Adam Serwer didn’t know that Donald Trump would win the 2016 election. But over the four years that followed, the Atlantic staff writer became one of our most astute analysts of the Trump presidency and the volatile powers it harnessed. The shock that greeted Trump’s victory, and the subsequent cruelty of his presidency, represented a failure to confront elements of the American past long thought vanquished. 

In this searing collection, Serwer chronicles the Trump administration not as an aberration but as an outgrowth of the inequalities the United States was founded on. Serwer is less interested in the presidential spectacle than in the ideological and structural currents behind Trump’s rise - including a media that was often blindsided by the ugly realities of what the administration represented and how it came to be. 

While deeply engaged with the moment, Serwer’s writing is also haunted by ghosts of an unresolved American past, a past that torments the present. In bracing new essays and previously published works, he explores white nationalism, myths about migration, the political power of police unions, and the many faces of anti-Semitism. For all the dynamics he examines, cruelty is the glue, the binding agent of a movement fueled by fear and exclusion. Serwer argues that rather than pretending these four years didn’t happen or dismissing them as a brief moment of madness, we must face what made them possible. Without acknowledging and confronting these toxic legacies, the fragile dream of American multiracial democracy will remain vulnerable to another ambitious demagogue.

©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.

13 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.

6 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.

6 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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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"The Cruelty Is The Point" Our history in detail

Excellently done. our history was presented in full detail for everyone to hear. Very informative!