Of interest to students of the Civil War, and certain to provoke discussion in the professional journals.

BITTERLY DIVIDED

THE SOUTH’S INNER CIVIL WAR

There was not one civil war between 1861 and 1865 but many—so many that if the South were to rise again, it would do so on only one leg.

“Secession,” writes Williams (History/Valdosta State Univ.; A People’s History of the Civil War, 2005, etc.), “divided families all across the slave states. It pitted fathers against sons, siblings against each other, and even wives against husbands.” It divided communities as well. Whole counties in Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Virginia refused to leave the Union and seceded from the secession; homegrown unionist militias fought guerrilla wars against the Confederacy throughout the South; and as much as a quarter of the Union Army were Southern boys. Small wonder that one Atlanta newspaper opined early in the war, “If we are defeated, it will be by the people at home.” As the war went on, the tide of sentiment turned against rebellion, as civilians starved and farmers had their crops and livestock requisitioned out from under them. By Williams’s Marxist-tinged account, the Confederacy brought this upon itself, for it was a stringently class-conscious society organized for the economic and political benefit of the rich and visibly against the poor. The poor suffered disproportionately, but they did not rise up en masse, even though plenty of those poor folk worked quietly against the government. And not just the poor, as Williams observes. African-Americans resisted the Confederacy, too. Similarly, many Native Americans within the bounds of the South packed up and moved rather than take up arms against the Union; the band led by Opothleyahola, a Creek chief, petitioned Lincoln to protect them and, upon receiving no reply, relocated to Kansas, attacked by pro-Southern Indians as they traveled. These acts of struggle within the Civil War are too little documented within standard textbooks, and Williams does a good job with this book, though some historians may question his close focus on class analysis.

Of interest to students of the Civil War, and certain to provoke discussion in the professional journals.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59558-108-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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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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