Gregory’s devotion to civil rights and his global recognition add to his appealing writing style and clever sense of humor...




The comedian, activist, and social critic highlights key events in black history in America.

Gregory (Callus on My Soul, 2000, etc.) notes that his perspective is unique because he was there—at least for many of the 20th-century events he chronicles. The author traces black history from the beginnings of the slave trade out of Africa, a history with which most readers are familiar. But Gregory adds further facts that got left behind. For example, regarding the horrific middle passage: “Prior to the Middle Passage sharks had a natural migration….Then [it] came along—all that blood in the ocean. The blood of millions of black people. The sharks changed their migration pattern to follow the blood.” The book is full of such eye-opening—sometimes shocking—historical tidbits, about everything from Rosa Parks to the Dred Scott decision to Pullman Porters to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Million Man March to W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and the Atlanta Compromise. The book is full of heroes and heroines, many that history books overlook—e.g., Dorothy Height, the “godmother of civil rights.” Not surprisingly in a book from Gregory, the conspiracy theories are in abundance, and many make perfect sense. Certainly, there have been white supremacists who hatched plots to defeat and even kill blacks who tried to band together for their rights. Gregory’s attitude is not one of anger, and he shows a deep respect for God: “I plant the turnips, but it’s your sunshine…your rain that waters the crops.” The author believes most in the need for progress and change, which, he admits, “does not come quickly.” But it is crucial, and it requires knowledge. “Along with my activism,” he writes, “I have spent my entire life in the pursuit of knowledge.”

Gregory’s devotion to civil rights and his global recognition add to his appealing writing style and clever sense of humor to make this a book for a wide audience.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-244869-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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