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PROFILES IN COURAGE FOR OUR TIME

By and large, a refreshing sampling of political legacies cleaving to the notion of equality and justice on behalf of the...

Character sketches of 14 men and women who have won the Profiles in Courage Award, which recognizes elected officials who “stood fast for the ideals of America.”

Gratifyingly, this is not just another collection of eulogies; some of the winners have blots on their political escutcheons that are duly noted. Nor will all readers agree on the worthiness of each recipient, as the obvious case of Gerald Ford attests. Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon “was the only way of ending the public and media obsession with his predecessor’s future,” Bob Woodward unconvincingly claims, begging the point that the obsession arose from concern over the consequences of illegal acts in high office and the impeccable standards to which citizens (we hope) hold those who hold office. Other winners are more obviously laudable, such as Texas Representative Henry B. Gonzalez, who fought Jim Crow laws in his home state and “totally resisted the prevailing slickness that was debasing our politics,” as Pete Hamill puts it. Corkin Cherubini, captured by Marion Wright Edelman, fought race-based tracking (“a kind of educational apartheid”) as superintendent of Georgia’s public schools. California Senator Hilda Solis, profiled by Anthony Walton, constructed legal guidelines that identified and mitigated “the negative environmental and health effects of pollution and waste-disposal facilities on low-income and minority populations.” An example of a fence-straddler is Carl Elliott Sr., congressman from Alabama. As Michael Beschloss writes, much can be said for Elliott’s “aid-to-education bill,” which sought to bring equality to the Alabama school system. Yet he also signed the notorious “Southern Manifesto” and truckled to George Wallace’s racist politics.

By and large, a refreshing sampling of political legacies cleaving to the notion of equality and justice on behalf of the weak and exploited.

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7868-6793-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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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