A truly instructive work.

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LOOKING FOR HISTORY

DISPATCHES FROM LATIN AMERICA

Clear-eyed essays focusing chiefly on political events of the past decade in Colombia, Mexico, and Cuba.

New Yorker writer Guillermoprieto (The Heart That Bleeds, 1994) is the very model of the intrepid reporter. With astounding energy, she braves the snarls of politics and the perils of mountains and jungle to hack her way to the heart of the matter and lay out the facts for her reader. Whether she is making her way through the nearly impenetrable wilds of Colombia to meet with leaders of that nation’s oldest guerilla group (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, alias FARC) or being awakened in the middle of the night to talk with Subcomandante Marcos, military leader of the Zapatistas, her commitment to the story is unshakeable. She stays alert through six hours of a Castro press conference, and awakens at 5 a.m. to witness the Pope’s historic outdoor mass in Havana. For all of this physical action, however, it is her fluency with the political territory that is truly remarkable. Tracing the histories of political parties and alliances, Guillermoprieto provides insight into movements that usually seem absolutely opaque. The nebulous War on Drugs in Colombia is laid out piece by piece, with the guerillas and government actors labeled and interviewed. The Zapatistas are made human and comprehensible. Cuba’s citizenry is seen up close and personal. Looking at massive movements and political machinery, Guillermoprieto insists on understanding the very human motivations behind them and their impact on millions of regular people who contribute to them and must live with their effects. She’s equally impressive analyzing Eva Perón or Mario Vargas Llosa.

A truly instructive work.

Pub Date: April 18, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-42094-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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