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Fresh, iconoclastic, stimulating debates.

A valiant attempt to provoke philosophical questions about identity and purpose in unlikely hotspots.

Over the course of a few years, Fraenkel (Philosophy and Religion/McGill Univ.; Philosophical Religions from Plato to Spinoza: Reason, Religion, and Autonomy, 2013, etc.) took philosophical conundrums outside the confines of academia to test whether questions about morality and politics taught by Plato and Maimonides could be relevant to people in enduring conflict—e.g., Palestinians and Israelis, orthodox practitioners both Muslim and Jewish, Afro-Brazilian youth, and indigenous Mohawk. Between 2006 and 2011, Fraenkel, who is Jewish and speaks Arabic, held workshops among these groups, and he chronicles in abbreviated essays how the discussions proliferated, with himself constantly taking on the role of Socratic interlocutor. At his seminar at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, he discussed how the “examined life” advocated by Socrates in Plato’s Apology can apply to notions of justice authorized by Islam or Judaism. In Makassar, Indonesia, the author stimulated conversation about democracy—a rather new concept in that once-authoritarian, Muslim-dominated country—and whether it is just a Western import. Among a group of Hasidic Jews in New York City who were questioning their childhood faith, Fraenkel read 11th-century Muslim thinker Al-Ghazali’s Deliverance from Error, in which the author describes his own loss of faith. Reading these texts, such as Maimonides’ The Guide for the Perplexed, is prohibited in their community, and thus offers the students the thrill of leading a “double life.” In Brazil, where teaching philosophy in high school is now mandatory, Fraenkel plunged into received notions of justice and equality in a deeply unequal nation. Among the Mohawk of the Akwesasne reserve, near Montreal, the author tried to endow his students with tools for discussing how to reconcile tradition and modernity and what it means to “live well.” Above all, the author endorses the questioning of “bonds of authority” and “inherited beliefs.”

Fresh, iconoclastic, stimulating debates.

Pub Date: June 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-691-15103-8

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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...

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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