NATALIE ON THE STREET

Novelist Nietzke (Windowlight, not reviewed) effectively brings the serious problem of homelessness to a comprehensible level in her sensitive account of a few months in the life of one woman who made her home on a Los Angeles sidewalk. As the preface notes, this is not a standard case study—names are changed, locations obscured, and conversations reconstructed- -yet one senses that the account is as honest as Nietzke can make it while still respecting the independence of the ``bag lady'' who lived on her street. Soon after Nietzke first approached 74-year-old Natalie, she began recording and trying to make sense of their encounters. In addition to facing the problems inherent in her lonely, homeless life (no toilet, no place to cook, bathe, or change clothes, no protection from the elements), Natalie displayed symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, which would make it difficult for her to adapt to life in a shelter for the homeless mentally ill, such as the one where Nietzke worked. Nietzke would bring Natalie food (e.g., bananas or a couple of boiled eggs), dispose of her packaged excrement, and occasionally try to coax her into taking a sponge bath, washing her hair, or changing some piece of her clothing. Equally important, Nietzke, with determined patience, conversed with this elderly, frightened woman—even though they couldn't always understand each other. Far from admonishing Natalie for her ways (or admonishing us for the part we play in this drama, if only by inaction), Nietzke looks at the person we want to label as different and sees similarity: ``It is terrifying to face the `givens' in life, both what we are given and what we are spared. I could be Natalie, she could be me.'' While literary style and sympathetic perspective make this book easy to read, it is the straightforward approach to Natalie herself that makes it well worth reading.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-934971-42-0

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Calyx Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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