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GIRLS ONLY

In the saucy short profiles she regularly turns out for the New York Times, Witchel displays a knack for breeziness that doesn't come so naturally here: Sustaining it for the length of a book means sometimes forcing it, and this time the subject is personal—the bonds and unresolved tensions among her mother, her sister, and herself. Alex is the ``middle of the perfection sandwich''; more, more, more would please Mommy (a.k.a. Wonder Woman); less would be easier on Phoebe, ten years Alex's junior, who would then ``have only one Supreme Being to worry about'' (Mommy). Apparently, it's not so cushy being the eldest (of four), the high achiever, the responsible one—and the one who had to mother the others while Wonder Woman (impelled by childhood polio to overcompensate) got her Ph.D. and went to work when nobody else in Scarsdale did. Which is why Alex chooses, adamantly, not to have kids of her own; besides, her plate is full enough, thank you, with work, husband (finally, at 33), plus two stepsons on the weekends. Desperate to become herself, Alex is up-front about needing to Separate from ``the human Swiss Army knife'' who can do it all—yet she keeps seeking Mommy out, seducing her with article-generating junkets (to a trendy motel in the Hamptons, the deluxe Stanhope in Manhattan, the home of simpatico actress June Havoc). Although she never owns up to resentment of Mommy, other angers come close to the slick surface: at Phoebe for coexisting in the Alex/Mommy world; at the nobler-than-thou friends who martyr their tired selves to rear their little geniuses (whereas, Alex shrugs almost redeemingly, she'd probably just have a regular baby). Women who see themselves in Witchel's mirror (``pushing middle age and wearing the same clothes I took my SATs in'') may be willing to give her the benefit of the doubts raised by her presumption of an audience for all of her privileged communications.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-43777-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

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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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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

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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