Organized, accessible history for everyone.



This populist study of recent speeches, films and published works reveals the many uses of America’s founding ideals.

Schocket (History and American Culture Studies/Bowling Green State Univ.; Founding Corporate Power in Early National Philadelphia, 2007) has sifted through reams of material, film and text over the last 15 years and even embarked on his own treks to national historic sites like Mount Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg for a firsthand look at how the American Revolution is presented to the masses. He sees the allusions to the Founding Fathers and revolutionary heroes in speeches by Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama and in best-sellers like David McCullough’s John Adams or PBS’s animated Liberty’s Kids as serving one of two points of view: An “essentialist” approach holds the memory of the founding myth as unchanging, true and knowable—i.e., the conservative approach. The “organicist” viewpoint maintains a more fluid approach, seeing America as an evolving theater of multicultural and feminist principles—i.e., the liberal approach. The mere mention of “founding fathers” seems to be a catchphrase for many essentialist notions, such as whiteness, gun possession, right-to-life, even Christian, while the Constitutional phrases “more perfect union” and “created equal” sum up many of the organicists’ tenets, such as dedication to equality and belief in progress. The discovery by DNA proof that Thomas Jefferson fathered children by his black slave Sally Hemings has blown open the neat-and-tidy mythology of the upright and incorruptible Founding Fathers and forced a reckoning with a more complicated, messy story. Schocket’s visits to such historic sites as the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum and Philadelphia’s private National Liberty Museum reveal the array of co-opting of the revolutionary messages. Along with Hollywood’s take, the author delves into recent Constitutional Supreme Court battles and the formation of the Minutemen and tea party movements.

Organized, accessible history for everyone.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0814708163

Page Count: 256

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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...


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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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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