Of some interest to history buffs, though as a supplement to weightier books on Custer and Little Big Horn, including...

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THE OTHER CUSTERS

TOM, BOSTON, NEVIN, AND MAGGIE IN THE SHADOW OF GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER

A familiar story peppered with little-known insights into the workings of a family whose name has become a byword for foolhardy behavior.

When George Armstrong Custer went ill-advisedly into that coulee in Montana nearly 150 years ago, it wasn’t just he and his command who died. As popular historian Yenne (Operation Long Jump: Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Greatest Assassination Plot in History, 2015, etc.) writes, Little Big Horn cost two Custer brothers who had ridden with George as well as a brother-in-law and a nephew—a significant portion of that generation of Custer men and a lineage that has all but disappeared following the deaths of descendants to causes ranging from suicide to old age. Much of the story will be known to students of Civil War history and the American Indian Wars, to say nothing of Custerologists; still, Yenne spins the tale accessibly. As he writes, Custer was always a skin-of-his-teeth fellow who was loyal to his men and he to them; several of the soldiers who died with Custer also fought with him as members of his Michigan cavalry regiment during the Civil War. There’s a touch too much speculation to please academic historians (“Nevin Custer might have been at this meeting. The parents of the Custer boys, Emmanuel and Maria, may have been there as well, but Maria was in poor health and the death of three sons would probably have laid her low and rendered her housebound”), and the best part of the book is the slender closing section that deals with the fates of various Custers in the aftermath of Little Big Horn, from the resourceful Libby to the now-forgotten, quiet brother who preferred to stay on the farm rather than follow his siblings to glory.

Of some interest to history buffs, though as a supplement to weightier books on Custer and Little Big Horn, including Nathaniel Philbrick’s The Last Stand and Evan Connell’s Son of the Morning Star.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-3034-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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