A fresh angle and a wealth of material that will be unfamiliar even to avid buffs.



A Civil War history created out of slaves’ narratives.

Veteran historian Ward (River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War, 2005, etc.) takes his material from memoirs, letters, diaries and interviews with former slaves, created during and after the war. They provide a rarely seen perspective on one of the key events in African-American history. Ward notes in a preface the heterogeneous nature of his sources. Some are bare-bones accounts, others wildly embellished, still others eloquent and moving. Some narrators claim to have seen Lincoln traveling the South in disguise before the war began. On the other hand, we get such eyewitness accounts as Jim Parke, Robert E. Lee’s 18-year-old servant, recalling his master’s agony over whether to resign his U.S. Army commission and fight for Virginia. The author generally pays more attention to the narratives of civilian slaves than to the better-documented accounts of men who took up arms. As the war began, many slaves were at first elated, thinking they would soon be freed; cold reality sank in with early Confederate battlefield successes. The slaves’ grapevine revealed the extent of their masters’ lies by bringing news of such important events as the Emancipation Proclamation. Some jubilant slaves mobbed the Union troops that came their way, certain they were now free. Others, Ward notes, were afraid to assert their freedom too quickly. Some were still being sold in the late days of the war. Freedom, when it came, did little to ease the lot of those still in the Deep South. The author shows the course of the entire war, giving equal weight to the neglected Western front. Except for standardizing the more blatant renditions of slave dialect, he quotes these accounts essentially as they were written down.

A fresh angle and a wealth of material that will be unfamiliar even to avid buffs.

Pub Date: June 10, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-618-63400-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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