Tyson can expect an avalanche of criticism for flouting a dozen precepts of journalism, and Gant has been accused of an...

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AMERICAN SPARTAN

THE PROMISE, THE MISSION, AND THE BETRAYAL OF SPECIAL FORCES MAJOR JIM GANT

To win in Afghanistan, dedicated American soldiers must live among the tribes, earning their trust and molding them into effective fighters against Taliban and al-Qaida networks. Decorated Green Beret Jim Gant made this argument in a 2009 paper that impressed Gen. David Petraeus and other leaders, who told him to go ahead with the plan.

Already an admirer, having covered Gant’s heroics in Iraq, journalist Tyson recounts the subsequent three years, much of it spent in his company, as his unit moved to a remote village, befriended the chief, and proceeded to hire and train the tribesman who soon drove off the local Taliban. Neighboring chiefs began requesting help, and eventually, documents obtained from Osama bin Laden’s compound after his death complained about Gant by name. “The directive mentioned Jim by name,” she writes, “and said he was an impediment to Al Qaeda’s operational objectives…and needed to be removed from the battlefield.” Other units reported similar success, but Tyson concentrates on Gant’s campaign, which produced plenty of fireworks, heroism, suffering and, this being Afghanistan, constant frustration. Even as Gant set to work, the American government was announcing its intention to withdraw from the country. By 2012, the process was well under way, but by this time, Gant’s superiors, irritated by his independence and nonconformity, relieved him, denounced his tactics and forced him to retire. Tyson presents a damning picture of betrayal by commanding officers whose rigidity and lack of imagination was aggravated by personal dislike. Readers will find her arguments impressive, although they will be surprised by the frank admission that she and Gant fell in love.

Tyson can expect an avalanche of criticism for flouting a dozen precepts of journalism, and Gant has been accused of an unrealistically romantic view of Afghan tribalism. Still, readers will encounter one of the only satisfying products of a dismally unsatisfying war: this entertaining book.

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-211498-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 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...

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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