Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide.


248 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-670-06604-9
DDC 304.6'63





Reviewed by Michael Ungar

Michael Ungar is an associate professor at the Maritime School of Social
Work, Dalhousie University, and a marriage and family therapist
specializing in work with high-risk youth. He is the author of Nurturing
Hidden Resilience in Troubled Youth.


Coloroso, who is internationally known for her down-to-earth parenting books, has done something quite different in Extraordinary Evil: she has written about her 30-year interest in the causes and consequences of genocide. This, her latest book, is really two books in one. The first is a sensitive look at several different genocides, including that which took place in Rwanda and the Holocaust in Europe. Many other such tragedies are also referred to with a good deal of insight.


Coloroso wants to explain the roots of genocide, and to do this she has linked this book to her last, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander. She explains it is a short walk from the contempt of the bully for his victims to the actions of those who commit crimes against humanity. This is the lynchpin upon which Coloroso rests her thesis. Genocide, and bullying, she insists, isn’t about conflict. It is about contempt: “a powerful feeling of dislike toward somebody considered to be worthless, inferior, or underserving of respect.”


While she makes a cogent argument in support of her thesis early in the book, the second half remains an odd mixture of the personal and the political. One doubts the sociologists of the world are going to take this parenting guru very seriously, boiling such a complex problem down to a simple explanation akin to playground dynamics. If anyone but a person of Coloroso’s stature had written the book, I’m not sure it would have received much attention. But her pithy insights have informed many a family’s successes. What we see here is an idea that is emerging, though perhaps needing a bit more research to validate.


It is an interesting read, nonetheless, and Coloroso shows herself adept at capturing the experiences of individuals inside the tragedy of numbers too large to fathom. Though not really a book for parents, it is a book for those who want to grasp unimaginable crimes in manageable ways.


Coloroso, Barbara., “Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28953.