A historically resonant reminder of how far societal tolerance has come and that it still remains a work in progress.

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ALICE + FREDA FOREVER

A MURDER IN MEMPHIS

The story of a Gilded Age–era homicide that stunned a nation with its sheer violence and tabooed origins.

Haunted for years about the case, media columnist and historian Coe chronicles a 19th-century, Memphis, Tennessee–based ordeal of coldblooded murder and the jilted lesbian love that inspired it. As teenagers who fell in love in 1892, Alice Mitchell and Freda Ward threw caution to the wind, exchanged rings and anticipated marital bliss. Coe recounts their illicit affair through love letters, graphic artwork and entrancing detail as Alice, the more enamored partner when compared to the flirtatious, fickle Freda, became enraged when she learned of her fiancee’s heterosexual infidelities. After a failed poisoning and an attempt to dress as a man to legally consummate their nuptials, their missives were intercepted and the relationship exposed. Forbidden from contact, the women drifted apart, yet Alice, angered and despondent, watched and waited for the perfect opportunity to approach Freda and slash her throat in public. Being the Victorian era, this type of savage crime of passion provoked sensationalistic front-page “creative reporting,” especially as same-sex attraction was just beginning to be recognized as psychologically sound and not classified as perverse “erotomania.” An insanity plea fueled a frenzied courtroom staffed by an all-white, male jury and a lunacy inquisition, which sentenced Alice to be institutionalized. In revisiting such a fascinating and nearly forgotten true-crime event, Coe argues that the societal, gender and cultural restraints of the era limited the options and civic compassion that could’ve been visited upon Alice, a woman the author presents as both a psychotic murderer and a scorned lesbian—yet it remains a mystery which personality trait took such drastic vengeance on that fateful day.

A historically resonant reminder of how far societal tolerance has come and that it still remains a work in progress.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936976-60-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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