Harris's continuing search for his identity as a black American, previously documented in Mississippi Solo (1988) and Native Stranger (1992), now takes him on a compelling motorcycle journey through the American South. Setting out with little baggage and no fixed itinerary, Harris rides through the South with an inescapable awareness of the region's legacy of racism and oppression. On the very first page here, he passes a sign referring to a ``Coon Hunters' Club,'' which instantly reminds him of the area's terrible history of lynching. At the same time, he acknowledges his ``addiction'' to the South, which he recognizes as his ancestral territory, paramount even to Africa. And so he looks for traces of his forebears, especially his great-grandfather, a slave in Virginia. He talks to ordinary people of all ages and races, met by chance on park benches and in roadside restaurants; visits Richmond, Atlanta, Birmingham, and Charleston, finding memories of the black struggle for freedom as well as Confederate monuments; hears a sermon in Martin Luther King, Jr.,'s old church; and finds his great-grandfather's manumission papers in a Virginia courthouse. The events of the journey set off riveting chains of association, meditations on being a descendent of slaves in a nation that proclaims itself free. Harris's ultimate journey is as much inward and emotional as geographical, and the reader will be as surprised as the author was to learn its true destination. Harris has an eye for detail that many novelists might envy, and a fine prose style—qualities that, combined with the powerful subject matter here, result in an energetic and emotionally satisfying work.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-74896-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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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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