Well-written and -documented, a supremely helpful guide in sorting out how we arrived at that odd state of affairs.

FROM BIBLE BELT TO SUNBELT

PLAIN-FOLK RELIGION, GRASSROOTS POLITICS, AND THE RISE OF EVANGELICAL CONSERVATISM

A lucid history of how California, land of fruits and nuts and be-here-nowness, became a bastion of fundamentalist reaction. The manuscript won the 2006 Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians.

Blame it on the Arkansas-Texas-Oklahoma borderlands, a region that, writes Dochuk (History/Purdue Univ.), “produced a distinctive hybrid culture that combined the steely persistence and principles of the South with the rugged impatience and pragmatism of the West.” This backwater might have remained so were it not for the upheaval of the Depression, when it tilted sideways and poured its population into Southern California. So thorough was the transformation that by 1969 and the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan, California had more Southerners in its population than did Arkansas. This “hybrid culture” valued preachers over political leaders and kept a clannish distance from its neighbors. With the rise of crusading evangelicals, Billy Graham being just one example, transplanted Californians took their values and votes into the streets, establishing such bastions of conservatism as Pepperdine University and, well, Knott’s Berry Farm, and putting into law such legislation as Prop 13. Dochuk is a careful explainer of odd historical events, though his historian’s objectivity allows a few subtleties to slip by that he might have pounced on—not least how the Bible Belt rhetoric of California circa 1966 is the rhetoric of the entire nation in 2010, with its immigrant-bashing, thinly disguised segregationism and disregard for the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. Yet the author takes pains to chart how California's activist fundamentalism, once scorned by none other than Jerry Falwell, spread across the country, turning the whole place into an Ozark backwater, with music by Pat Boone.

Well-written and -documented, a supremely helpful guide in sorting out how we arrived at that odd state of affairs.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06682-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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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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