A lively contribution to popular histories of New York and its institutions, worthy of shelving alongside Robert Caro’s The...

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BELLEVUE

THREE CENTURIES OF MEDICINE AND MAYHEM AT AMERICA'S MOST STORIED HOSPITAL

An eye-opening history of the Manhattan hospital whose name is a byword for asylums everywhere.

If a person is taken to Bellevue, it’s never for good reasons. It is the hospital where sick homeless people, injured construction workers, and wounded cops and robbers come, scooped up from all over Manhattan, with elite wards for the elite and less-than-elite wards for the rest. In that sense, writes Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Oshinsky (History/New York Univ., and Medical Humanities/NYU School of Medicine; Polio: An American Story, 2010, etc.), “Bellevue is a microcosm of the city it serves.” It has made news for generations, in recent years for housing John Lennon’s assassin but also for having been the death place for Stephen Foster, O. Henry, and Lead Belly. That familiarity in the popular culture, notes the author, comes at a price, for though Bellevue has an ineradicable reputation, it is the definitive public hospital, treating rich and poor, attending to every conceivable malady, its doctors researching epidemics, ushering in public health reforms, and dispensing wisdom (“Work and keep out of the easy chair….Don’t eat too much meat”). From the ER to the Insane Pavilion (“Imagines Himself a Mosquito—Now an Inmate at Bellevue,” reads one headline of yore), Oshinsky’s account focuses on people. Anecdotal, its learning lightly worn, it makes a fine complement to the medical writing of Atul Gawande and Richard Selzer. It is also full of discoveries. For instance, it should come as no comfort to anyone that electroshock therapy, in which Bellevue was a pioneer, had its origins in the electrical stun guns used to stun pigs before they were slaughtered; it looks humane, Oshinsky suggests, only against other “therapies” such as lobotomy, and it was applied to thousands of patients, “many of them children.”

A lively contribution to popular histories of New York and its institutions, worthy of shelving alongside Robert Caro’s The Power Broker and Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace’s Gotham.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-52336-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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