This is horrifying, painful, and necessary reading.

TO HELL AND BACK

THE LAST TRAIN FROM HIROSHIMA

On the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pellegrino’s (Farewell, Titanic: Her Final Legacy, 2012, etc.) account of the survivors—a book recalled and pulped in 2010 by its original publisher after doubts about the authenticity of the claims made by one of the author’s sources—now appears in a revised edition.

After the atomic devastation of Aug. 6, 1945, in Hiroshima, a surviving father told his daughter: “Thank God we have relatives in Nagasaki. We will be safe there.” Based on interviews, memoirs, archival research, and new reporting, Pellegrino’s narrative is as riveting and powerful as John Hersey’s classic Hiroshima (1946). Recounting graphically detailed stories of the hibakusha (exposed), including double survivors who experienced the bombings of both cities, the author conjures a hellish landscape: we see “flash-burned” images on roads, people dissolving into gas and desiccated carbon, a man seemingly tap-dancing on feetless legs, and men, women, and children “degloved,” their skin pulled off by the wind. Much of the focus is on Hiroshima, which “was converted to a lake of yellowish boiling dust, left behind by a billowing red cloud that rose at impossible speed.” There, thousands of people “lived on the cusp of instantaneous nonexistence, on the verge of dying before it was possible to realize they were about to die.” Others lingered with radiation disease, dying most often from cancer; some survived for many years with nightmares and psychological damage. The second, more powerful bomb actually missed Nagasaki, obliterating an adjacent suburb. As in Hiroshima, some people were vaporized; others, sufficiently sheltered, went unharmed. Concerned mainly with ordinary people whose lives were changed in a “split second catastrophe,” Pellegrino also narrates the heartbreaking stories of the U.S. pilots (“My God, what have we done?” wrote one) and the many atomic orphans, as well as the origin of paper cranes fashioned by survivors as messages of hope.

This is horrifying, painful, and necessary reading.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4422-5058-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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...

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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