A searing memoir filled with horrors that impressively remains upbeat, highly inspiring, and always educational.

CALL ME AMERICAN

A MEMOIR

Born to extreme poverty in 1985 in war-torn Somalia, Iftin chronicles the extraordinary obstacles he overcame to obtain residency in the United States.

The author’s parents—and almost everybody of their generation in a lower-caste Somalian tribe—lived outdoors as nomads, raising camels and goats. They had never heard of the U.S. and only had a vague idea of Somalia as a diverse nation that had been colonized by Italy. Six years after Iftin’s birth and shortly after a devastating war with Ethiopia, Somalia descended into a tribal civil war that left millions dead, starving to death, or homeless. Amid a seemingly hopeless life filled with daily study of the Quran and corporal punishment from teachers if the memorization was less than perfect, a preteen Iftin became a combination of dreamer for a better life and street hustler to supply his family with scraps of food. He found a way into a ramshackle video store, where he violated Muslim tenets to view American movies, painstakingly repeating phrases to himself to learn English. “The things I saw in the movies seemed unreachable,” he writes, “but at least I could learn the language they spoke.” Eventually, the narrative shifts from his life of quiet desperation on the streets to his then-unrealistic plan to leave Somalia. The author reached a fetid refugee camp in Kenya and was able to obtain a visa to enter the U.S., where he knew nobody. Explaining how Iftin reached the U.S. would involve a series of spoilers, but suffice it to say that he did achieve entry four years ago, after which he found lodging, paid work, and formal education in Maine, where he plans to attend college. The author felt secure and optimistic there until the election of Donald Trump.

A searing memoir filled with horrors that impressively remains upbeat, highly inspiring, and always educational.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3219-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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