SACRED GROUND

AMERICANS AND THEIR BATTLEFIELDS

Here, Linenthal (Religious Studies/Univ. of Wisconsin) provocatively chronicles the history and role of five of America's most famous battle-site memorials: Lexington-Concord, the Alamo, Gettysburg, the Little Big Horn, and Pearl Harbor. Linenthal notes that Americans have always been awed and inspired when visiting places where gallant fellow citizens transformed ordinary land into sacred ground by their spirit and blood sacrifices in epic battles. The venerated sites, he says, have provided a powerful focus for national reflections that not only have enriched legends (often promoted by interested power groups) but, by the passage of time and through continued research by historians, have redefined the past by bringing to bear updated concepts of freedom and justice. Lexington-Concord symbolized the martial valor of plain citizens risking death to shake off a tyranny and build a new, freer society; later, this same spirit of protest would inspire some to demonstrate against unpopular wars. The work of historians, Linenthal argues, has changed perceptions of the Little Big Horn and altered the Custer myth. The author relates how the survivors of Gettysburg, once bitter enemies, would in time find friendship together while visitors would only occasionally be reminded of the forgotten message of Lincoln—that military valor and sacrifice would be in vain if a people would still be divided and a united nation of all the people not achieved: The freed slaves were largely forgotten for generations. Finally, Linenthal finds that the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor has seldom healed the average visitor's resentment toward Japan. An authoritative study of the nature of the American patriotic spirit as observed in its most hallowed memorials. (One-hundred- and-eighteen illustrations.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-252-01783-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Univ. of Illinois

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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