A moving debut coming-of-age memoir.

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THE LAST WITNESS FROM A DIRT ROAD

Hunt recalls his life as a 13-year-old on a Louisiana plantation just after World War II.

In 1946, the sugarcane plantation was still in many ways a relic of the antebellum South. Hunt, because his father ran the farming operations, had the privilege of living in the “Big House” near the African-American workers’ shacks in “The Quarter.” However, in this fine memoir, there’s no hint of condescension in the white Hunt’s interactions with the African-American families. Hunt felt welcome at the parties they held, and he enjoyed hearing performers named Nat and Ella and Lena singing from their radios. One of the field hands described Hunt’s father as “nearly ’bout like us colored folks, he ain’t got no land, no money, and he ain’t got much schoolin’.” Hunt was so color-blind that a well-meaning worker advised him that it would be best if he spent more time with those of his own kind. The suggestion arose mainly because he spent so much time with his best friend, a younger African-American boy nicknamed Papa. Their association was as deep as a boyhood friendship could possibly be, as illustrated by Hunt’s selfless efforts to help Papa learn to read and write. Although Hunt was well aware that the world beyond the dirt road was all-white—including his school and church—he was genuinely bewildered by warnings that his friendship with Papa could eventually pose a risk to both of them. The author intensifies the poignancy by revealing that the plantation was slowly dying, as workers migrated north instead of waiting to be replaced by postwar farm equipment. Meanwhile, Hunt kept right on reading Superman comics to Papa; however, the author doesn’t reveal what the boys thought about the plots of those fantastic stories. More significantly, Hunt’s detailed epilogue leaves out any information about Papa’s fate, which may disappoint many readers. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful memoir, and the author renders the lives along that dirt road with vivid, unforgettable humanity.

A moving debut coming-of-age memoir.

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2005

ISBN: 978-0979045400

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Bill Hunt Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2014

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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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