Sketchy diary notes from Alexandra's final days of captivity will interest only experts and the most dogged devotees of the doomed Romanovs. The collapse of the Soviet Union has enabled publication, for the first time in complete form, of the final diary of Tsaritsa Alexandra, edited by two staffers of the State Archive of the Russian Federation. Alexandra's diary conveys the tightening restrictions (i.e., painted windows, less outdoor time) imposed on the Romanovs during their final months under house arrest. It also attests to her intense religious faith and her boundless love for her children, especially the tsarevitch. But its style is terse and dry; notations are mere jottings, and full sentences are rare. Helpful footnotes include biographical details, explanations of religious terms, and excerpts of other diaries. (Nicholas's diary, with its narrative drive and attention to the outside world, stands in stark contrast to his wife's inwardly turned journal.) This perfunctorily written text receives an overwritten presentation. Nicholas and Alexandra author Massie and Jonathan Brent (editor of Yale University Press), who both contribute introductions, assert that the secret significance of Alexandra's diary lies in its tedium: the tsaritsa's personal record of time, weather, Russian Orthodox holidays, and birthdays. Such details, Massie claims, record ``her symbolic accommodation of the new and her resistance to the destruction of a traditional order of thought, action, and belief.'' Brent's approach is guided by both semiotics and psychoanalysis; in Alexandra's recourse to a private language he finds ``a complicated relationship to herself.'' The implication is that one must read Alexandra's diary as a semiotic text encoding the clash between the old and new, the sacred and the profane. Readers who are inclined to accept this task will find food for thought in the tsaritsa's diary. Those skeptical about having to decode the diary's ``mute pathos and ironic witness'' will simply be bored.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-300-07212-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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