An exciting, swift-moving narrative, replete with characters both dastardly and noble.




Washington Post writer Lane tackles the horrific Reconstruction era in this well-considered study of a Louisiana massacre and its grim ramifications for civil rights.

By 1873, the Southern states were bitterly divided along racial lines. The Ku Klux Klan ran largely unchecked, despite the newly passed Enforcement Act, which made racist terrorism a federal offense, and the Ku Klux Klan Act, which branded the Klan an “insurrection” against the United States and imposed heavy new penalties. The backlash against Radical Republicanism flared especially in Louisiana, where the Republicans and the Fusionists (Republican defectors who joined the white Democrats) were coming to blows over a legitimate government. Colfax was the capital of a newly carved county called Grant Parish, populated largely by freedmen who had grown vehemently Republican and determined to push for Negro suffrage. Events came to a head in March, when the Republican faction sacked the Fusionist-dominated Grant Parish Courthouse. The Fusionists vowed to retake the courthouse, now guarded by a posse of mostly black guards; after an uneasy standoff, it was besieged and set ablaze on Easter Sunday. Sixty-five white-flag-waving blacks were slaughtered as they ran from the burning building, along with 30 prisoners. James Beckwith, U.S. attorney for Louisiana, moved swiftly to dragnet the whites responsible, basing his case on Klan prosecutions and relying on the unprecedented testimony of black witnesses. After a mistrial followed by the acquittal of the defendants in a second trial, the case reached the Supreme Court, which declared in U.S. v. Cruikshank, et al. that Beckwith’s indictments were constitutionally flawed—thus effectively throwing the enforcement of civil rights back to the white-controlled Southern states for another generation. Lane argues eloquently that the Colfax Massacre proved the turning point in America’s racial politics.

An exciting, swift-moving narrative, replete with characters both dastardly and noble.

Pub Date: March 4, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8342-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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