Unfortunately, the impact of an autobiographer’s writing style may not match that of his or her life. Insofar as that is the case here, however, it reflects Motley’s amazing career (she is now a senior judge in US District Court for the Southern District of New York) as much as her colorless prose. Motley became a lawyer at a time when neither women nor blacks were especially welcome in the profession, and she worked with the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund at the outset of the civil rights movement, including laboring alongside Thurgood Marshall on Brown v. Board of Education. Her efforts in litigating civil rights cases included ten appearances before the Supreme Court. She briefly moved into politics and became the first black woman elected to the New York Senate and the first woman to serve as Manhattan borough president, then became the first woman appointed to the federal bench in New York. Indeed, the events themselves often carry the reader along; the drama of sitting on the speaker’s platform with her son during Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech or tense moments on Mississippi roads with Medgar Evers matches that of any movie script. Tensions within the civil rights movement are also revealed when Motley discloses that she “thought he [Marshall] would have a stroke” when the advocate of moderate legal tactics learned of student sit-ins in 1960. She closes with a somewhat incongruous commentary regretting the dismantling of affirmative action and some uncharacteristically biting remarks about the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Motley considers Bush’s action “ . . . the most cynical move made in the area of race relations since Plessy” that “dealt all of us black Americans a crushing societal setback in exchange for conservative votes.” Not a great book in its own right, but certainly of interest for the student of the civil rights movement. (24 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-14865-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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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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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...


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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