A pleasing combination of skillful journalism and shrewd storytelling.

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LOST RIGHTS

THE MISADVENTURES OF A STOLEN AMERICAN RELIC

Bicycling executive editor and freelance journalist Howard unravels the tortured provenance of an original copy of the Bill of Rights.

In April 1865, souvenir-hunting soldiers from Gen. Sherman’s army ransacked North Carolina’s statehouse. One came away, probably unwittingly, with one of the 14 original copies of the Bill of Rights, which he carried to Ohio and later sold to the visiting Charles Shotwell for $5. The relic remained in the Shotwell family’s hands for more than 130 years, until his elderly granddaughters sold it to the seemingly reputable Connecticut antiques dealer Wayne Pratt for $200,000. Was the manuscript a legitimate spoil of war or, more likely, stolen property whose ownership would be immediately contested should it ever come forthrightly to market? Howard closely follows Pratt’s maneuvering to resell the prized document for millions, a story that quickly becomes part history, part mystery, part study in ambition, greed and betrayal—all the predictable passions that surround any great treasure. It gives away nothing to disclose that Pratt’s plan came to grief, ending in an FBI sting, with the parchment secured and resting in a Carolina vault. Fully aware of the incongruity between the noble sentiments of the Bill of Rights and the ignoble impulses he so fully explores, Howard introduces us to a remarkably shady land developer, a too-eager lawyer whose wife once headed Bill Clinton’s IRS, a bedazzled art dealer whose clients include Teresa Heinz Kerry, startled government scholars, inquiring reporters, tantalized museum officials, covetous governors of two states and clever law-enforcement specialists in stolen art and cultural artifacts. Along the way, the author provides informative asides about the often sleazy art and antiques world, the arcane preoccupations of document specialists, the hypocrisy of major museums and libraries (every bit as eager for distinction as the disgraced Pratt) and the remarkably careless governmental archival practices that, until recently, have placed many of our historical documents at risk.

A pleasing combination of skillful journalism and shrewd storytelling.

Pub Date: July 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-618-82607-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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