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Nicely written and generally well-considered: particularly useful for students of the Jacksonian era.

Brawler, liar, adulterer, murderer. This was one of the great presidents?

Burstein (History/Univ. of Tulsa; America’s Jubilee, 2001, etc.) clearly does not share the generally favorable view of Andrew Jackson popularized in the last couple of decades by Robert Remini, the author of a now-standard three-volume biography published between 1977 and 1984. In his highly critical reconsideration, Burstein keeps his eye on the individual, treating Old Hickory as something out of the pages of Shakespeare in the Richard III/Coriolanus/Titus Andronicus vein, with perhaps a dash of Lear’s madness. Like them, Jackson was ruled by his passions, which were many and elemental; they got him in more than one scrape in his long life (1767–1845), whether running off to the then-Spanish borderlands of Mississippi with the estranged wife of a neighbor or fighting Cherokees on the Tennessee frontier (in which service, Burstein suggests, Jackson’s deeds have been much overrated, though this is the fault of later mythmakers and not of Jackson himself). Several constants arise in these pages: Jackson’s overarching hatred of Indians and conviction that the only way to treat them was by force; his certainty that “virulent enemies were plotting against [him]” at all times, an irrational belief that he shared, Burstein claims, with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; his ardent defense of slavery, though his last words to his slaves were, “I want all to prepare to meet me in Heaven. . . . Christ has no respect for color.” The overall effect is, of course, a whittling away of the Jacksonian legend, so much so that by the end, readers will wonder how he came to be considered great in the first place. This diminution Burstein achieves with good evidence at hand, though he is sometimes given to judging Jackson and his contemporaries by modern standards rather than those of the day.

Nicely written and generally well-considered: particularly useful for students of the Jacksonian era.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-41428-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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