A didactic tour de force presented approachably.



A leading scholar of Judaism explores just about every manifestation of contemporary anti-Semitism, with plenty of history included for context.

Lipstadt (Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies/Emory Univ.; Holocaust: An American Understanding, 2016, etc.), a winner of the National Jewish Book Award, relates the grim reality of anti-Semitism through an unusual format: an invented correspondence between herself and two fictional characters, one a brainy Jewish university student named Abigail, the other a non-Jewish university law professor deeply worried about pervasive hatred of Jews on campus and elsewhere. The epistolary structure is unvarying, so some readers may find it artificial and tiresome—but as the information in each piece of correspondence builds on the previous letters, a coherent and frightening narrative begins to take shape. Lipstadt personalizes the book by citing anti-Semitic issues she has faced. Even after devoting most of her career to the study of the Shoah, she writes, she had a very difficult time piecing this book together. Writing about the depressing present and dark-looking future caused her unexpected anguish. As part of the correspondence driving the narrative, the author defines anti-Semitism, offers a five-pronged taxonomy of hatred, provides contextual explanations such as the similarities and differences between Jews and blacks as targets of hatred, delves into non-Jews who rationalize their evil ways, examines the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, and looks at anti-Semitism on college campuses. Another noticeable element throughout the book is the conundrum of Israel as a special land created to safeguard Jews. The author and her two composite correspondents wrestle with the Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, including what could and should be done to achieve de-escalation in the region. Lipstadt closes the book on a somewhat upbeat note by explaining how and why Jews should reject being cast as victims and nothing more. “You will encounter antisemitism along the way,” she writes, “but I entreat you to avoid letting this ‘longest hatred’ become the linchpin of your identity.”

A didactic tour de force presented approachably.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4337-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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