A coherent rendering of this complex, tumultuous and little-known history.

THE WORLD ON FIRE

1919 AND THE BATTLE WITH BOLSHEVISM

The world was ripe for revolution in 1919—so thought Lenin and Trotsky. In reality, as Read (The Devil’s Disciples: Hitler’s Inner Circle, 2004, etc.) demonstrates, it was ripe for repression.

The end of World War I saw Russia weakened by military defeat and revolution, so much so that, as Read observes, the Germans were able to impose on it a peace treaty so punishing that “the later Treaty of Versailles, about which they complained so piteously, seems remarkably mild by comparison.” Alarmed by the rise of communism, the Allied powers landed a small army in Russia, consisting mostly of Polish-Americans from Michigan and Wisconsin presumably chosen for the job because of their ethnic background. Against all this, the Bolshevik leadership committed itself to imposing a stern dictatorship pledged to sweep the nation of “bourgeois putrefaction.” In the West, and particularly the United States, the Red Scare set the tone, and it enabled all manner of suppression, as when government and business collaborated to crush the radical Wobblies and other labor organizers, elements of which responded with bombs against their persecutors, bringing charges of terrorism upon their heads. Meanwhile in Russia, the Allied force, divided and scarcely reinforced or supplied, began to crumble as Trotsky’s Red Army gained ground against the Whites, who were “badly led and had little stomach for the campaign.” Back in Washington, thousands of citizens were arrested by the homeland-security apparatus of the time, while Woodrow Wilson trumpeted, ironically, that his Republican opponents were Bolshevik dupes. The Republicans won nonetheless, having promised to end the Red Scare and return America to “normalcy.” Before they did—“normalcy” being the corruptions of the Harding administration—it was a field day for the forces of reaction, as newspapers thundered that communists were behind every door and civilization was doomed.

A coherent rendering of this complex, tumultuous and little-known history.

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-393-06124-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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