A rewarding book with much to offer, including the likely spark of new interest in how singular choices made by both men and...

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THE GREAT LEADER AND THE FIGHTER PILOT

THE TRUE STORY OF THE TYRANT WHO CREATED NORTH KOREA AND THE YOUNG LIEUTENANT WHO STOLE HIS WAY TO FREEDOM

The carnage of war, the rise of a dictator and one North Korean defector’s life story all come together in this combination of biography, military history and exposé.

Harden (Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, 2012, etc.) skillfully fuses all his narrative threads into one united chronicle. In narrating the rise of North Korea’s first communist dictator, Kim Il Sung, Harden ties Kim’s story to that of defector No Kum Sok. The once-privileged son of a factory owner under Japanese rule, No disliked communism and its constraints from the start and began planning his escape the first time he heard Kim speak in person. No spent five years pretending to be zealously committed to the party in order to protect himself long enough to put his plan into action. He joined the navy and volunteered to become a fighter pilot in hopes of flying his way out of North Korea. Eventually, he did just that, crossing the border to South Korea in a MiG-15 and leaving Kim and communism behind for good. To complement both No’s and Kim’s stories, Harden keeps the Korean War in the foreground. He includes details that were left out of American news and military reports, using recently disclosed military documents and No’s eyewitness testimony. The U.S looms large in this book, both as a dream destination for No and a terrifying agent of death and destruction for his homeland. Using this multifaceted view, Harden explains how Kim, though laughably inept regarding military strategy and in fulfilling his nation’s needs, was able to build a lasting dictatorial dynasty.

A rewarding book with much to offer, including the likely spark of new interest in how singular choices made by both men and nations can reverberate for generations.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01657-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the...

AN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND LATINX HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A concise, alternate history of the United States “about how people across the hemisphere wove together antislavery, anticolonial, pro-freedom, and pro-working-class movements against tremendous obstacles.”

In the latest in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series, Ortiz (History/Univ. of Florida; Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920, 2005, etc.) examines U.S. history through the lens of African-American and Latinx activists. Much of the American history taught in schools is limited to white America, leaving out the impact of non-European immigrants and indigenous peoples. The author corrects that error in a thorough look at the debt of gratitude we owe to the Haitian Revolution, the Mexican War of Independence, and the Cuban War of Independence, all struggles that helped lead to social democracy. Ortiz shows the history of the workers for what it really was: a fatal intertwining of slavery, racial capitalism, and imperialism. He states that the American Revolution began as a war of independence and became a war to preserve slavery. Thus, slavery is the foundation of American prosperity. With the end of slavery, imperialist America exported segregation laws and labor discrimination abroad. As we moved into Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, we stole their land for American corporations and used the Army to enforce draconian labor laws. This continued in the South and in California. The rise of agriculture could not have succeeded without cheap labor. Mexican workers were often preferred because, if they demanded rights, they could just be deported. Convict labor worked even better. The author points out the only way success has been gained is by organizing; a great example was the “Day without Immigrants” in 2006. Of course, as Ortiz rightly notes, much more work is necessary, especially since Jim Crow and Juan Crow are resurging as each political gain is met with “legal” countermeasures.

A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the United States Constitution.”

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1310-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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