Alternately poignant, powerful and ponderous—a worthwhile glimpse into a battered culture.

TALL MAN

THE DEATH OF DOOMADGEE

Australian novelist Hooper (A Child’s Book of True Crime, 2002) investigates the 2004 death of an Aboriginal man and the subsequent trial of the police sergeant charged with his killing.

The author combines murder mystery with provocative social commentary in her deeply felt if occasionally overwrought account. Pursuing the story from ground level, Hooper traveled to remote Aboriginal townships to explore a culture rich in folklore and superstition and a population seemingly condemned to poverty, squalor and hopelessness. She was less successful in penetrating the stone-faced veneer of accused detective Chris Hurley, whose career included episodes of both brutality and kindness. Absent Hurley’s cooperation, Hooper was left to speculate on the mindset of this particular “tall man” and a police force highly adept at protecting its own. More revelatory was the author’s emotional journey into the lives of Australia’s indigenous people, crippled both by the effects of long-standing white domination and by their own self-destructive behavior. (Laudably, Hooper doesn’t scant either aspect in her text.) The victim, Cameron Doomadgee, was sadly typical of many young Aboriginal men living in the remote Queensland hamlet of Palm Island. Impoverished, unemployed and chronically drunk, he encountered Hurley after a morning of heavy imbibing. The Aboriginal shouted a slur, the cop arrested him, and things escalated from there. When Doomadgee punched the nearly 6’7” sergeant outside the police station, a scuffle ensued. Hurley claimed that he simply fell on top of his prisoner during the ruckus, but an autopsy revealed that the 36-year-old Aboriginal suffered severe trauma to his midsection that nearly ruptured his liver in half. An ambitious career officer with a record of good relations with Aborigines (he had even created a sports club for Aboriginal youths), Hurley soon became the first policeman in Australian history formally charged with the death of a prisoner in custody.

Alternately poignant, powerful and ponderous—a worthwhile glimpse into a battered culture.

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6159-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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