In 2004, fascinated by the Berlin Wall, 12-year-old Louis peppered his father with questions about it. As this poignant book...

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WHO KILLED MY FATHER

A memoir implicates French politicians in the suffering of its citizens.

When he was growing up, Louis (History of Violence, 2018, etc.) didn’t get along with his father. The patriarch lived by a simple creed: “be a man, don’t act like a girl, don’t be a faggot.” Surprising words for young Louis, who is gay, to hear, even more so given that a man who would “sneer at any sign of femininity in a man” once dressed as a cheerleader and cried while watching opera. A détente began when the author’s father was injured at the factory where he worked. Something heavy fell on him and “mangled” his back, and he was so weak that he got winded walking to the bathroom. Most of the book focuses on Louis’ relationship with his father, but then, in an abrupt shift, the author spends the last 15 pages enumerating policies that he argues have emasculated his father and worsened life for France’s poorest citizens. Sometimes, the author’s attempts to connect his family’s tragedy to world events go too far, such as when he invokes concentration camps. More relevant are his critiques of French politicians: former President Jacques Chirac’s announcement “that dozens of medications would no longer be covered by the state”; former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s change to basic unemployment benefits that forced Louis’ father to take jobs such as street sweeper; and the current president, Emmanuel Macron, who cut 5 euros per month from the subsidy that allows France’s poor to pay their rent while he cut taxes for the wealthy. Whatever one’s politics, readers of this impassioned work are likely to be moved by the Louis family’s plight and the love, however strained, between the author and his father.

In 2004, fascinated by the Berlin Wall, 12-year-old Louis peppered his father with questions about it. As this poignant book shows, there are still walls—within families, between leaders and citizens—that need to be torn down.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2850-3

Page Count: 92

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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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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