A fresh, incisive, and uplifting biography/social history.




A concise biography of the celebrated black author’s radical voice.

Mullen (American Studies/Purdue Univ.; W.E.B. Du Bois: Revolutionary Across the Color Line, 2016, etc.) believes the time is right for a new biography of Baldwin (1924-1987), one that focuses on his political life and development. He argues that Baldwin’s role in campaigns for social justice has been “underappreciated,” and his emergence as an “icon of the global Black Lives Matter movement” requires a new assessment of him as a popular-culture touchstone. Also, as a queer black man, he is now seen as a forerunner in today’s debates on gender and race issues. Mullen’s approach is chronological: He moves from Baldwin’s youth as the oldest of nine children in a poor Harlem family to his radical student years and development as a writer to his years abroad (Paris, Istanbul) and his return to America to become a tireless, politically astute spokesman for civil and sexual rights, including AIDS. As poet Amiri Baraka noted at his funeral, Baldwin served as “God’s revolutionary black mouth.” Paralleling Baldwin’s personal story, Mullen deftly recounts the historical backdrop—the Vietnam War and protests, the Young People’s Socialist League, the Communist Party in America, the Palestinian liberation movement, the Nation of Islam, Black Power, Malcolm X, and the FBI’s relentless and crushing surveillance of Baldwin and black radicals—to more clearly assess Baldwin’s substantial role in the political and literary worlds from the 1940s to the 1980s. Throughout, Mullen discusses Baldwin as an influential novelist, playwright, essayist, and critic, quoting generously from his works. Giovanni’s Room was an “avatar of contemporary gay literature.” In The Fire Next Time, “Baldwin’s combined role as mentor, historian, and advocate for struggle on the streets found its literary complement.” A “somber, simmering, angry novel,” If Beale Street Could Talk is his “most damning single fictional indictment of the criminal justice system.”

A fresh, incisive, and uplifting biography/social history.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7453-3854-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pluto Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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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...


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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