Race, patriotism, and personal heroism come together in this eye-opening early episode in Civil War history.

THE REST I WILL KILL

WILLIAM TILLMAN AND THE UNFORGETTABLE STORY OF HOW A FREE BLACK MAN REFUSED TO BECOME A SLAVE

A Civil War tale starring a free black sailor.

Attorney and historian McGinty (Lincoln’s Greatest Case: The River, the Bridge, and the Making of America, 2015, etc.) has uncovered another compelling, little-known gem of American history, though it’s not as bloodthirsty as the title would suggest. William Tillman, an illiterate, 27-year-old, free black man from Rhode Island, worked as a ship’s cook and steward. On July 4, 1861, Tillman and a small crew left New York Harbor on the S.J. Waring, a schooner bound for Uruguay. The Civil War had just broken out, and Abraham Lincoln ordered a blockade of the Southern coast. Less than a week into the voyage, they were stopped and boarded by the crew of the Jefferson Davis, a Confederate privateer. They claimed the ship, cargo, and crew as Yankee prizes of war. Tillman would fetch a substantial amount of money when sold into slavery in Charleston. The crew kept him and two others onboard to help sail the Waring. At night, when most were sleeping, Tillman used a hatchet he kept hidden to kill the Confederate captain and two others. The rest were put in irons. As Tillman later told an official inquiry, “I will get all I can back alive, and the rest I will kill.” They now began the dangerous journey home. Captain-less, Tillman’s experience and knowledge helped them navigate coastal waters and elude other privateers. After five harrowing days at sea, they sailed into New York Harbor, 17 days after they had left. Tillman, writes the author, received a “hero’s welcome.” His story was covered by Northern and Southern publications, and after the inquiry, he was awarded salvage money. Tillman then “slipped out of the public eye and was soon forgotten.” McGinty impressively recounts this extraordinary story of a remarkable man, the “first real hero of the conflict.”

Race, patriotism, and personal heroism come together in this eye-opening early episode in Civil War history.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63149-129-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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