A tough journey. For Hendricks, the discovery that counts is that the conjuring of his father’s presence during his bleak...

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A LONG DAY AT THE END OF THE WORLD

A memoir in the form of a strange pilgrimage, filled with apocalyptic images, through the present-day South to the place in Georgia where hundreds of corpses were found rotting outside a crematory.

The “cremains” sent out by Tri-State Crematory to bereaved families were, it seems, largely ground concrete. Poet Hendricks (Thaumatrope, 2007, etc.), whose father had died more than a decade earlier, was on a quest to find out whether his father’s body was one of those discarded corpses. In 1997, his body had been disinterred from its Georgia grave since his widow wanted him cremated so that his ashes could later be dispersed with hers in the mountains. Five years after the disinterment, Hendricks sought to discover what became of his father’s body and to understand how this mass desecration could have occurred. His journey through the South was nightmarish: religious bigotry, environmental ruin, slavery and its aftermath of racial prejudice, a history of Native American genocide dating back to the days of Hernando de Soto’s exploitation. What was going on inside Hendrick’s head was no picnic either. He ruminates on his unhappy childhood with a father he found hard to love and his growing up in the South, where he did not fit in. At journey’s end, the author does see confirmation that his father’s body has been identified. However, as for why the crematory owner had scattered corpses through the woods and pond behind his facility, no answer is ever forthcoming.

A tough journey. For Hendricks, the discovery that counts is that the conjuring of his father’s presence during his bleak and lonely pilgrimage has brought him to realize that perhaps he can love him again after all.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-14686-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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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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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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