BLACK DEATH AT THE GOLDEN GATE

THE RACE TO SAVE AMERICA FROM THE BUBONIC PLAGUE

A tale that resonates with the outbreak of measles, mumps, and other supposedly contained epidemics today.

A complex tale of medicine, politics, race, and public health.

Reuters senior reporter Randall (The King and Queen of Malibu: The True Story of the Battle for Paradise, 2016, etc.) works his way through a story that is well-documented in the epidemiological literature but hasn’t received much popular attention. At the end of 1899, bubonic plague broke out in Honolulu, with an unknown number of deaths and panic in its wake. Public health officials on the mainland knew that San Francisco was likely next, and they mounted a campaign of quarantine. Even so, crowded Chinatown, in the heart of the city, saw the first cases. A dilemma followed, with Marine Health Service bureau chief Joseph Kinyoun wrestling with whether to cordon off the area; writes Randall, “any harsh measures that might scare those living in the plague zone into fleeing outside the district would potentially expand the grip of the disease further.” Working against Kinyoun were California’s governor and San Francisco’s mayor, who alternately denied the existence of the outbreak or demanded that it be hushed up, and even members of the Chinese community, who sued to end the quarantine when a plague had not been officially declared. Racism and corruption played their parts. In the end, Kinyoun was replaced with another public health officer, Rupert Blue, who, also against much opposition, was more successful in his campaign of “eliminating hundreds of thousands of rats from the streets and sewers." Chaos returned with the great earthquake that struck the city, and Blue, who ran into trouble with his bosses in Washington, was assigned elsewhere only to return to Randall’s narrative decades later in Los Angeles, where plague had appeared. There are many moving parts to the story, and they don’t always mesh neatly, but the author does good work in revealing the clamorous crash of public and private interests surrounding the outbreak—and, he notes, the bubonic plague still pops up from time to time in the U.S.

A tale that resonates with the outbreak of measles, mumps, and other supposedly contained epidemics today.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-60945-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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