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A clear, unpretentious volume that justly celebrates a couple who risked all for others.

Companion volume to the upcoming Ken Burns’ PBS documentary about an American couple who rescued people threatened by the Nazi whirlwind in Europe.

Readers familiar with Burns’ documentaries will recognize some of his techniques transferred here into text by writer Joukowsky (co-director of the film), who first approached Burns about this story featuring his grandparents, Waitstill and Martha Sharp, a story Joukowsky had thoroughly researched and already begun to film. There are passages quoted from correspondence between the two, touching intimate moments, mentions of myriads of documents, photographs, and interviews (which readers must wait for PBS to see), and follow-ups on the principals and some supporting players. Waitstill was a Unitarian minister in Massachusetts when, in 1939, the American Unitarian Association recruited the couple to go to Prague to aid those under imminent Nazi threat. The Sharps succeeded in astonishing fashion, helping people slip out of the country, feeding the hungry, avoiding ubiquitous Nazi surveillance, and rescuing children from utter poverty. There were many near misses, and many moments of frustration, fear, and labyrinthine bureaucracy á la Dickens’ Bleak House. There are also some surprises. They helped the son of Thomas Mann escape; Harvard’s Jerome Bruner supported Martha during her subsequent run for Congress. The author generally adopts a neutral narrative tone, though he does blast Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long (“anti-Semitic, xenophobic”), and a couple of times he notes the irony of the Sharps spending so much time away from their own children to go abroad to help others’ children. But the author’s portraits are generally flattering, even when he chronicles the couple’s divorce. True tension, though, is hard to create when we know from the outset that both survived the war.

A clear, unpretentious volume that justly celebrates a couple who risked all for others.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8070-7182-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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