Essential reading for the historically minded in a time of ongoing struggle for civil rights.




Eminent Civil War historian Guelzo examines the many reasons the Reconstruction era, “the ugly duckling of American history,” ended in failure.

Reconstruction, the brainchild of Abraham Lincoln and carried out—or not—by successors Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant, was meant to rebuild the rebellious Southern states and reincorporate them into the Union while altering their political structure to allow for the suffrage and citizens’ rights of former slaves. From 1865 to 1877, that federal project ground down before achieving its ambitions, though parts were put in place. As Guelzo (Director, Civil War Era Studies/Gettysburg Coll.; Redeeming the Great Emancipator, 2016, etc.) notes, there’s something in Reconstruction for nearly everyone to hate but also something powerful by way of an object lesson: Much of the South’s “Lost Cause” myth was born in the time, as a pointed morality tale in resisting a tyranny in which whites and not blacks were disenfranchised and the extraordinary levels of graft and corruption allowed do-gooders on all sides to point to the doomed effort with I-told-you-so smugness. For all that, Reconstruction had to grapple with large issues: Were the states formerly in rebellion still states? Who was responsible for paying Confederate debts? In the end, almost everyone concerned with the enterprise failed to press Reconstruction to its presumed end. Consequently, former slaveholders were restored to positions of power and influence that in turn subjected former slaves to peonage, which, as one former slave put it, “is not the condition of really freemen.” As seems so often the case in American history, African-Americans emerge the losers in Guelzo’s narrative. As he writes, it was not just property and economic freedom that fled them, but “what Southern blacks lost in wholesale amounts was political agency.” Thus the rise of Jim Crow laws and the spectacle, 150 years after the end of the war, of continued disenfranchisement and de facto segregation.

Essential reading for the historically minded in a time of ongoing struggle for civil rights.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-086569-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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...


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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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.


Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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