A capable and compelling memoir of the ’60s and its varied political legacies as reflected in the lives of three survivors.

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LITTLE RED

THREE PASSIONATE LIVES THROUGH THE SIXTIES AND BEYOND

Parallel biographies of three notorious 1960s graduates of a left-wing New York high school.

The Little Red School House, in Greenwich Village, was founded in 1932 by committed leftists and expanded into the Elisabeth Irwin High School 10 years later. In her debut, journalist and “Little Red” alumna Hampton traces the lives of three of the high school’s graduates: Angela Davis, ’61, and Tom Hurwitz and Elliott Abrams, both ’65. In the early ’60s, the school hewed to an old-left, Marxist line, to which these three students responded very differently. Davis, who entered in her junior year after living in segregated Birmingham, found classic communism a revelation to which she has steadfastly clung. Hurwitz, instrumental in the seizure of buildings at Columbia University by Students for a Democratic Society and later in the GIs Against the Vietnam War movement, chafed under the old thinking and reveled in the frenetic activity of the New Left—until he found himself on the receiving end of some Maoist criticism and was ejected from a California collective for being insufficiently revolutionary. Abrams began his political odyssey as a Humphrey liberal and ended as a prominent neoconservative, brought down by the Iran-Contra scandal and still widely vilified by other alumni. Hampton ably maintains an evenhanded respect for her subjects’ widely varying political positions as she explores their evolution over the years, but it is her narrative skills that truly shine. Her evocation of the heady, impulsive spirit of the university-building–occupation era, awash in drugs, sex and over-the-top Marxist rhetoric, is pitch-perfect. Davis’ arrest and 1972 trial for murder in the death of a California judge are presented as a gripping courtroom thriller, counterbalanced later by the inexorable pursuit of Abrams by special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh.

A capable and compelling memoir of the ’60s and its varied political legacies as reflected in the lives of three survivors.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1586480936

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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...

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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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