Delgado brings an intriguing perspective to a complicated situation, but these notes could use polishing.

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THE SUTRAS OF ABU GHRAIB

NOTES FROM A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR IN IRAQ

A veteran who was honorably discharged as a conscientious objector lays out a case against the Iraq war.

After a peripatetic childhood as the son of an American diplomat in Thailand, Senegal and Egypt, the introverted and inherently contrarian Delgado moved with his parents to Florida. He attended college briefly, but dropped out to join the Army Reserves as a way of spiting the pseudo-intellectual elitism he found on campus. Waiting to be called to active duty, he finally cracked open some assigned reading on Buddhism and in one sitting decided, “I’ve been a Buddhist for a long time.” Deployed to Iraq, Delgado eventually concluded that a vegetarian Buddhist could not be a U.S. soldier. An impressive combination of research, relentlessness and steadfastness won him a conscientious-objector discharge. While the cynical or jingoistic may read self-justification into his account of the war, Delgado’s portrait of a morally unmoored military is peppered with anecdotes about anti-Muslim sentiment and casual violence against civilians that ring true. A lack of exposure to other cultures and languages renders American soldiers unable to recognize our shared humanity, he argues. Combined with a military culture that encourages viewing all Arabs as enemies and provides neither adequate supervision nor proper preparation, this blindness makes horrors like Abu Ghraib inevitable. Delgado’s points are effective. However, his inward-looking narrative only fitfully conveys a wider sense of the war. It’s also confusing: The author uneasily juxtaposes you-are-here action scenes with flashbacks of seeing monks in Thailand, memories of his girlfriend, explanations of Buddhist philosophy, descriptions of friends from the motor pool and a rough guide to filing conscientious objector paperwork.

Delgado brings an intriguing perspective to a complicated situation, but these notes could use polishing.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8070-7270-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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