A detailed and unnecessary look at a failed assassination. Picchi, a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, believes there is mystery surrounding Giuseppe Zangara’s attempt to shoot Franklin Roosevelt shortly before his inauguration in 1932, but this premise seems overdrawn. The facts are straightforward. Zangara, an Italian immigrant, went to a Miami event at which Roosevelt was scheduled to appear and fired five rounds in an attempt to kill the president-elect. Zangara’s short stature prevented a clear view of or shot at Roosevelt, leaving the intended victim unharmed but several bystanders injured. The most critical wound was suffered by Anton Cermak, mayor of Chicago, who eventually died. Zangara’s arrest, initial trial and conviction for assault, subsequent trial and conviction for murder after Cermak’s death, and finally his execution, all took place in the amazingly short time of five weeks. Everyone seemed intent on swift justice, including not only the court-assigned defense lawyers intent on doing the prosecution’s job, but even Zangara himself. Prejudice against southern Europeans was clearly present, Zangara’s sanity was too easily affirmed, medical incompetence probably caused Cermak’s death, and the judicial proceedings were a mockery given the significance of the case. While there are grounds to give Zangara “his day in court” then, it is not clear what purpose it serves. Zangara’s lack of remorse may have been unsettling and his ill-formed personal political philosophy, suggesting that leaders of all countries should be shot, unsatisfying as a motive. However, Picchi’s account leaves little room to doubt that this is genuinely what Zangara believed, and that if alive today he would welcome an opportunity to shoot the president. Although inexplicable in rational terms, this hardly constitutes a reason to reexamine the case, for in the end Zangara’s behavior simply falls outside the realm of rationality and there is little more to be said. An interesting historical footnote that can be bypassed without severe costs. (b&w photos)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-89733-443-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Academy Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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

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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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