A raucous but also sensitive and insightful view of why the Sunshine State really is different.

DREAM STATE

DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACY, DANGLING CHADS, BANANA REPUBLICANS, SWAMP LAWYERS, AND OTHER FLORIDA WILDLIFE

The author tracks her Florida family branches back some eight generations as evidence that the state’s history is uniquely and often scandalously strange.

Roberts (English/Univ. of Alabama) roamed Tallahassee as a journalist (St. Petersburg Times, The New Republic, etc.) during the Election 2000 debacle. Fidel Castro, she recalls, offered to send “democracy advisers,” a wisecrack that makes it clear her sympathies did not lie (as did those of some of her relatives) with elections supervisor Katharine Harris, whom the author characterizes as duping the press into seeing her as an airhead handmaiden of the Bush dynasty while coolly administering whatever selective disenfranchisement it would take to get the job done. This sardonic account of the post-election scramble serves as preamble to Roberts’s engrossing portrayal of her native land as both charmed and cursed from the day Ponce de Leon first stumbled ashore to sip from the legendary fountain only to receive an ultimately fatal wound. Florida, she deftly argues, has somehow become everybody’s ultimate “second chance”—mostly in the form of perennially virgin real estate lying prostrate for exploitation. Roberts cites, for example, the legislature’s 1924 prohibition of both income and inheritance taxes, officially inviting the lustful rich to overrun the adventurous poor, who had in their own heyday ethnically cleansed the original Seminole inhabitants. Edgy, sarcastic wit peppers a historical narrative dovetailed, to the occasional point of slipped focus, with ancestral ups and downs. Yet Roberts doesn’t spare her own kin when it comes to a good story: hoop-skirted debutantes as poseurs of the Old Confederacy, KKK yips, moonshiners, and power-brokers on the take dot the assembled genealogical roster. State legislator Luther Tucker, for instance, is tabbed apocryphally as someone who dialed up a hooker in the 1950s from a Tallahassee hotel room to find, on her arrival, that they were related.

A raucous but also sensitive and insightful view of why the Sunshine State really is different.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-5206-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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