An unsparing exposé of white supremacy among Northern elites.



How a 1960s-era campaign to open beaches to the public exposed Connecticut’s deeply entrenched racism.

In 1964, inspired by John Kennedy’s call for “a citizenry guided by the maxim of self-sacrifice for the public good,” 23-year-old Ned Coll quit his job at an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut, and started a local project that he called the Revitalization Corps. In a well-documented—and dispiriting—history of prejudice and inequality, Kahrl (History and African American Studies/Univ. of Virginia; The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South, 2012) focuses on Coll’s career as a brash, indefatigable anti-poverty activist to reveal endemic bigotry in a state renowned for its liberal values. Connecticut’s shore—the state’s Gold Coast—was dotted with wealthy communities whose residents fiercely protected private use of the beaches. Physical barriers, exorbitant access fees for nonresidents, and bans on street parking near beaches were a few of the strategies deployed to keep Connecticut’s poor off the white sands. “In a state where extreme wealth and equally extreme poverty resided in close proximity,” writes the author, “beach access restrictions complemented, reinforced, and helped to naturalize the barriers dividing thriving suburbs from dying cities.” Along with education and housing reform, Coll focused much energy on beach access, filling buses with children from poor cities and transporting them to private beaches, devising a program like New York’s Fresh Air Fund to give children a chance to live with white families for a portion of the summer, and mounting repeated lawsuits. The push for beach access spawned a nationwide movement: between 1964 and 1974, Kahrl discovered, “federal and state courts decided at least twenty-six cases involving disputes over public rights on beaches” in which white communities argued vociferously for their entitlement. Despite many successes, Coll never took on the challenge of “dismantling the structures” and institutions that perpetuate racial inequality, and he became increasingly “unhinged, reckless, and counterproductive” as he lost the public’s respect.

An unsparing exposé of white supremacy among Northern elites.

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-300-21514-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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