For food history and presidential history buffs alike, both entertaining and illuminating.

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THE PRESIDENT'S KITCHEN CABINET

THE STORY OF THE AFRICAN AMERICANS WHO HAVE FED OUR FIRST FAMILIES, FROM THE WASHINGTONS TO THE OBAMAS

“The White House kitchen is a workplace, just like any other professional kitchen”—except, of course, that it’s much more than that, a subject that food historian Miller (Soul Food, 2013) explores with gusto.

In a modest sense, the subtitle of the book is a touch limiting, for his latest is a broad-sweeping history of American culinary culture as interpreted through a long line of presidential chefs and food workers. That lineage is primarily African-American, and so it has always been. As Miller writes, George Washington’s head chef was an enslaved man named Hercules, who, by Miller’s account, had a temperament and an ego to match the demands of the job—and even to rival his boss, “who had a very bad temper.” If the Founder was a grouch, there’s no reason why his cook shouldn’t be a martinet—successful enough, it happens, to earn an income on the side. Just so, a member of Thomas Jefferson’s kitchen staff went on to become a caterer and later a preacher and abolitionist, proof that, yesterday as today, the kitchen is a launching place for many successful ventures outside it. Miller explores the logistics of the White House, with its layers and hierarchies and kitchens for staff as well as the chief executive, of the culinary curiosities surrounding the various presidents (including the difficulty of keeping dairy products on hand when needed, as Richard Nixon would complain). Thanks to Miller’s careful research, we know that Jimmy Carter “doesn’t especially like green peas,” in first lady Rosalynn Carter’s careful words, and that his predecessor, Gerald Ford, had a fondness for butter pecan ice cream. More substantial are Miller’s notes, sometimes between the lines, on how exposure to African-American persons, their foodways, and their “professional excellence” played a part in lessening the prejudices of the nation’s chief officeholders.

For food history and presidential history buffs alike, both entertaining and illuminating.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4696-3253-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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