A philosophical celebration of Judaism that wanders but ultimately returns to hope and light.

THE GENIUS OF JUDAISM

A memoir and philosophical reflection on the renewed urgency to study the Jewish tomes.

With a nod to Chateaubriand’s Genius of Christianity, which passionately defended the faith against the critics of the French Enlightenment, Lévy (American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville, 2006, etc.), the French public intellectual, filmmaker, and controversial author, embarks on an ardent, meandering defense of Judaism as a bulwark against what he sees as the growing forces of barbarism and bigotry. This latest book is a companion of sorts to the author’s The Testament of God (1980) as well as a continuing dialogue with like-minded philosophers and influences such as Benny Lévy, Alain Finkielkraut, and, especially, Emmanuel Levinas. First, Lévy responds to the “oldest form of hate,” anti-Semitism, and to the “new guise” of anti-Zionist forces that include Holocaust deniers and revisionists who propound a “competition over victimhood”—e.g., Palestinians and African-Americans vs. Holocaust victims. Within this new guise of anti-Semitism, Lévy labels the BDS campaign (“boycott, disinvestment, sanctions”) against Israel as “a new form of warfare.” Then he looks at the global hot spots where he and other secular Jews have sprung into action against forces of genocide—specifically in Libya and Ukraine, which Levy compares, in an elaborate biblical analogy, to the great city of Nineveh, which fell into decadence and decay and prompted God to command the prophet Jonah to prophesy its destruction. The divine message is that God “chose to view that evil as redeemable,” and thus Lévy’s message is essentially uplifting: that the brilliant scholars of Judaism, the authors of the Talmud, provide elucidation into “the great questions that have stirred humanity since the dawn of time.” By turns eloquent and overworked, the author’s prose will turn some readers off, but his material is provocative as always.

A philosophical celebration of Judaism that wanders but ultimately returns to hope and light.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9272-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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