Thoroughly researched and revealing.

STEEL

THE STORY OF PITTSBURGH'S IRON AND STEEL INDUSTRY 1852-1902

A history of Pittsburgh and its steel industry, from the robber barons to the laborers.

In this history book, Perelman (The Regent, 2012) brings together many narrative threads: the changes in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities as the steel industry developed; the workers who toiled for low pay and saw their attempts to organize met with violence; and the ruthless, driven industrialists who clawed their ways to the top. Andrew Carnegie, Henry Frick and Charles Schwab are among the famous names inhabiting the elites’ side of history, while Perelman’s workers are generally nameless, identified more by their ethnicities and meager incomes. At times, this can seem like an odd choice, particularly because Perelman invents dialogue, often in stilted English, for his unnamed workers: “ ‘Where go train?’ he asked an agent in English like the sailor had told him. ‘Over there, Greenhorn,’ the man answered curtly pointing to the railroad station.” The book is stronger when dealing with the documented historical record, and the footnotes demonstrate Perelman’s wide-ranging research. Demonstrating a clear understanding of complexities in the steel industry, he unravels the clashing loyalties of the Homestead strike and the back-stabbing business negotiations, making them intelligible to readers less familiar with the subject. Though the narrative is well-structured, the writing lacks polish in some areas; other times, it occupies the boundary between elegant simile and overwriting: “Jones eased into the iron industry like a male model fitting into a bespoke suit”; “From the onset, the two clashed like vinegar and oil.” Readers willing to accommodate such narrative flourishes will find the book a useful addition to the shelves of American industrial history and a valuable guide to both primary and secondary sources, as well as a vivid depiction of some of the 19th century’s most ambitious, contradictory tycoons.

Thoroughly researched and revealing.

Pub Date: July 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497341401

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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