A limp testament to privileged self-discovery.

ASSIMILATE OR GO HOME

NOTES FROM A FAILED MISSIONARY ON REDISCOVERING FAITH

The author’s experiences working with refugees.

Ever since her childhood, Mayfield yearned to be a missionary, spreading the Christian Gospel to far-flung parts of the world. She ended up focusing her work more locally in the poor neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon, but she and her husband also took up residence among Somali Bantu refugees and spent years forging relationships and doing community work. In the process, Mayfield found herself questioning her own motives and dedication, or even ability, to truly live among the poor and marginalized. What could have been a meaningfully introspective tale is instead a tiresome repetition of the author’s thoughts and regrets. The book goes beyond being autobiographical and borders on self-obsession. Despite stories of refugees and others who have been through tremendous horrors and continue to struggle daily, everything returns to the author and her own personal trials. Even Mayfield’s husband and children are relegated to the far background, having no real part to play in the drama of her quest for “downward mobility.” The author’s sanctimonious self-loathing is often cloying: “In our new apartment, our new neighborhood, we were thrilled as only white people can be, gentrifiers in every sense of the word.” Throughout her story, she is satisfied to continue living the privileged life she despises and focusing on her own shortcomings as opposed to the problems of the people she is there to help: “I am not poor. I drink lattes during droughts, eat hamburgers during famines.” Mayfield does not present herself as a missionary in any traditional sense; the faith aspect of her work comes in a distant third after her roles as activist and social worker. In fact, it seems that the further the author moves from her roots as a missionary, the more comfortable she becomes as a white woman living in a neighborhood of color.

A limp testament to privileged self-discovery.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-238880-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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