A concise book that shines a light on some largely forgotten history.

A LIFE IN RED

A STORY OF FORBIDDEN LOVE, THE GREAT DEPRESSION, AND THE COMMUNIST FIGHT FOR A BLACK NATION IN THE DEEP SOUTH

A series of fascinating footnotes to the story of American communism, civil rights, and Richard Wright.

Former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter and editor Beasley (Without Mercy: The Stunning True Story of Race, Crime, and Corruption in the Deep South, 2014, etc.) explains that the genesis for the recounting of the interracial marriage between Herbert and Jane Newton came from an inquiry from a French scholar concerning work he was doing on Wright and the writing of Native Son, during a time when Wright was living with the Newtons. Jane was initially reluctant to revisit that period, so long after she had divorced Herbert and had become the city clerk in Santa Barbara, a conservative California enclave where the Red Scare still lingered. But once she started corresponding on her days as a communist, she found it hard to stop. She was the daughter of a well-to-do Michigan family, with a father who became head of the American Legion. She became radicalized during the Great Depression, and her relationship with and marriage to Newton, whose communist activities were perceived as a threat, were considered such a moral aberration that the only way she avoided jail was with a short commitment to a psychiatric hospital, because “a daughter of such a prominent white family would have to be insane to turn her back on such an upbringing and marry a black Communist.” The book’s perspective finds the communist plan of promoting violent revolution in the American South to be misguided at best, but Beasley celebrates Jane as an unsung hero. “On Communism, Jane had been on the wrong side of history," he writes. “But on race in America, she was decades ahead of her time.” Though by no means a thorough history, the narrative also touches on schisms in the Communist Party, differences in goals within the civil rights movement, and the unhappy success of Wright, who spent his last years in Paris, estranged from his homeland.

A concise book that shines a light on some largely forgotten history.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-89587-622-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: John F. Blair

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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