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A brief but full-color biography of an essential leader.

In her valuable new biography, Shapira (Emerita, Humanities/Tel Aviv Univ.; Israel: A History, 2012) provides a concise appraisal of a founding father of the nation that was once only the dream of generations.

More than anyone, it was David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) who forged the state of Israel into a homeland and an independent democracy in an inhospitable Middle East. However, Israel’s first prime minister and first minister of defense wasn’t an easy man to deal with. Born in Poland, he arrived in Palestine at age 20 imbued with Zionistic zeal and ready to assume an agricultural life, but the study of law seemed more suited to his vision of a Jewish homeland. So, supported by his father and without knowledge of Arabic or Turkish, he went to Istanbul to learn Ottoman law. He also traveled to London and New York. Returning to Palestine, he became leader of Mapai, the workers’ party, and spokesman for the Yishuv, the community of Jews during the British Mandate. Shapira reports the workings of his convoluted dealings with the formidable leaders of the nascent state during the Yishuv—these convoluted goings-on may confound readers not well-versed in the subject. After World War II and the Shoah, Ben-Gurion managed the influx of survivors fighting against British forces for admission to the Holy Land. When the U.N. voted for partition, Ben-Gurion was quick to announce the declaration of statehood and the birth of the new nation. Father of Israel’s Defense Forces, he knew there would be a war for survival with every surrounding Arab nation. In the end, he achieved his abiding goals: a return to the land, a social framework and Hebrew as the language of Israel. The old lion’s powers eventually faded. He lived out his life, among his books, in a kibbutz in the Negev desert.

A brief but full-color biography of an essential leader.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-300-18045-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 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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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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