Gutsy, richly descriptive recollections effectively conjure grisly events in a troubled nation.



Former Associated Press correspondent Mealer recalls four unnerving years in Congo.

In 2003, the author was a freelance reporter in Kenya, striving to find noteworthy stories he could sell to American publications. His search was mostly in vain, until the AP’s Nairobi bureau chief suggested a trip to Congo, where a fearsome clash between the Hema and Lendu tribes had just led to many hundreds of deaths. Mealer’s subsequent stint in Congo forms the backbone of his potent memoir. From the moment he arrived, it was clear that the country was collapsing into chaos. The author pulls no punches in describing the sights that flickered before his eyes from his bases in Kinshasa and Bunia, or in retelling gut-wrenching stories related to him by the residents of towns decimated by violence. In Mudzipela, he talked to people who had witnessed beheadings, bodies chopped into pieces and even a man feasting on human remains. He muses on the vast differences between his own life and the lives of the Congolese, whose incredible stoicism in the face of monumental slaughter was something he never really adjusted to. Mealer occasionally returned home during his tenure, and brief passages about his life in Brooklyn provide an effective contrast. The author frequently mentions the respite both he and the locals found in music: the Congolese in Kinshasa’s ever-present live performances, “brash and thumping and spilling down the street at four a.m.”; the author in headphones clasped firmly over his ears at night to drive away the day’s horrors. The book takes a sudden, unexpected turn in its final pages with a lengthy account of Mealer’s trip aboard a rickety old train through the southern province of Katanga, a journey in search of hope and signs of rebuilding in this battle-scarred country.

Gutsy, richly descriptive recollections effectively conjure grisly events in a troubled nation.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59691-345-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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