FAULT LINES

JOURNEYS INTO THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA

The transformation of South Africa from apartheid to democracy traced sometimes prosaically, sometimes astutely through the lives of eight representative South Africans. Goodman, an activist and journalist whose work has appeared in the Boston Globe and Christian Science Monitor, et al., knows South Africa well, from extensive reportorial stints, but the whiff of the slightly uncomprehending outsider still wafts through this book. He witnesses a great deal but doesn—t always completely understand, blinkered by his own cultural constructions and prejudices. Yet it is precisely this baggage that sometimes allows him the kind of unflinching honesty many native South Africans would never dare. He sees all too clearly the failed promises of uhuru (liberation), the promised houses, promised jobs, promised social justice that never quite materializes as the emerging black middle class focuses more on its own material well- being than on general uplift of the poor. In choosing his subjects, Goodman has cleverly tried to pair opposites: an anti-apartheid activist and the security policeman who plotted his assassination; one of the architects of apartheid and his radical grandson; a struggling black activist maid and a successful black woman entrepreneur; a white and a black farmer. When he is actively recounting the lives and struggles of these people, Goodman is superb. His portraits of the policeman, incapacitated by the horrors he has wrought, and the entrepreneur, an “apartheid jujitsu artist,” are first-rate. But he does not trust his characters enough to bring out the larger issues he’s so concerned about. So he takes extended detours into conventional historicizing and tired polemicizing, often reducing these usually fascinating flesh-and-blood people to little more than vague points of reference. (b&w photos, not seen

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-520-21736-5

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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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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