Béchard's adventurous travels in the Congo offer spice to this rich, complex account.




Journalist Béchard (Cures for Hunger: A Memoir, 2012, etc.), a foreign correspondent familiar with war zones, probes beneath headlines describing the Congo as “a country of such inhumanity that we find it incomprehensible” and finds another, more hopeful reality.

The author explains that he was drawn to the Congo because its tropical rain forests play a crucial role in preventing climate change. As the area has become more stable politically after years of civil war, the threat of deforestation is looming due to the renewed, large-scale corporate exploitation of its valuable mineral resources. This also endangers the small remaining population of bonobos, “humanity's closest living relative alongside the chimpanzee,” whose only natural habitat is the Congolese rain forest. Establishment of more traditional national parks, which exclude local farming, is not a viable solution, since the forests have become a refuge for Congolese forced out of their homes by civil war. Béchard learned that a small NGO, Bonobo Conservation Initiative, founded by American conservationists, offers an alternative model: a partnership among the BCI villages to preserve the rain forest and protect the bonobos. Villagers agree to voluntarily restrict their farming to designated areas; in return, they are employed in various jobs—e.g., tracking the bonobos and guarding them from poachers. The BCI takes responsibility for providing medical care and primary schools, as well as access to higher education. Graduates trained in environmental science then become part of the management. While the immediate BCI focus is to preserve the bonobo population, its broader purpose is to develop ecotourism as a viable economic alternative to corporate exploitation. The author profiles Americans and Congolese who are involved in this visionary effort to meld traditional and modern values in service of a planetary imperative.

Béchard's adventurous travels in the Congo offer spice to this rich, complex account.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-57131-340-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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