BITITA'S DIARY

THE CHILDHOOD MEMOIRS OF CAROLINA MARIA DE JESUS

An evocative portrait of a childhood of abject poverty, by one of Brazil's bestselling authors. Jesus (191577) was a literary phenomenon of the 1950s. Discovered living in a shantytown by a So Paulo newspaperman, Jesus, whose nickname was Bitita, became the bestselling author in Brazilian history when the journalist helped her find a publisher for a collection of her diaries, which appeared in 1958 (and later in English as Child of the Dark). Jesus quickly became the spokesperson for Third World poverty as her book was translated into many languages, yet she died in near-obscurity and scavenging for food to eat. This rather fragmentary book, written in the 1970s and only compiled after her death, is Jesus's adult recollection of her childhood in rural Brazil in the 1920s. Like all memoirs, this one suffers from a certain amount of revisionist history-making. Her supposed five- and six-year-old ponderings about race and the unequal treatment of women by men, for instance, are at times so astute as to be unbelievable. That said, this is an impressive book, not only for Jesus's searing portraits of poverty in Brazil—a picture that editor Levine (director of Latin American Studies at the University of Miami) claims never has been so honestly drawn—but for her depictions of the crippling power of the Brazilian class structure and racial and sexual prejudice. Only the most heartless would not be moved by Jesus's recounting of the rebukes she received from relatives and others as she tried to claw her way out of the very deep social and racial hole into which she was born. Certainly not a book for mainstream America, but invaluable for scholars and historians interested the real picture of rural Brazilian life in the 1920s.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-7656-0211-3

Page Count: 180

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1997

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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