A SPECIAL KIND OF HERO

CHRIS BURKE'S OWN STORY

Awkwardly told tale of how one family raised a Down's syndrome child to achieve far beyond expectations. Despite Burke's name as primary author and the implication of the subtitle, this story is not told in his own words (with the exception of three very brief sections), nor is it an ``as told to''; this is journalist McDaniel's overwritten account of how the Burkes raised their handicapped son and how he realized his childhood ambition to become an actor. Against all odds, Burke has become a star of the TV series Life Goes On—in which he portrays a high-school student with Down's syndrome—a role model for others, and a spokesperson for various organizations promoting the rights of the handicapped. Unfortunately, although McDaniel, a former Life correspondent, exhibits considerable zeal in researching Burke's life story, she shows limited ability to select the significant detail. She seems to have spoken to—and quoted—nearly everyone who has ever known him, even when their observations and insights were obviously limited: e.g., teachers' aides, former classmates, co-workers at the public school where he once ran an elevator, even a guest star on Life Goes On. From them come such comments as: ``He was quite a kid''; ``He was a good kid: he didn't bother anyone''; ``He knew how to get his words across and everything.'' It is difficult to believe that even readers with Down's syndrome family members will not tire of the Burke minutiae (Chris's words on first meeting Dan Ackroyd: ``Hi, Dan!''). On the plus side, the final chapter contains useful information on the syndrome and puts Burke's life into perspective. The story of how ordinary people met extraordinary demands and how a special child became an unexpected success, marred in the telling by repetition and overattention to trivia. (Twenty- five b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-41645-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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