Bitter lessons from the past unearthed and expertly reexamined.




An impassioned argument that the Arabs of Greater Syria who fought for the Allies in World War I, deeply committed to the Wilsonian notion of self-determination, were robbed of their chance at democracy.

Thompson, the Mohamed S. Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace at American University, claims that this tragic story of Syria’s occupation by England and France—and their deliberate effort to “destroy the Syrian Arab state” just as it was forming its democratic constitution—has “never before been told in English.” She notes that only four books have covered the Syrian Arab Congress and its drafting of a “147-article constitution modeled on its Ottoman predecessor with modifications inspired by American federalism and checks and balances”—a document created within the slim window between the declaration of Syrian independence and the imperial partition of Syria as agreed upon at the San Remo Conference in April 1920. Beginning in 1916, Prince Faisal, the championed leader of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire who was famously advised by T.E. Lawrence, defied his father in advocating for Syrian independence. Yet with Woodrow Wilson incapacitated by stroke, English and French leaders, using the League of Nations system of mandates as pretext, declared Faisal’s government illegal. The author clearly demonstrates how they planned the occupation and partition just as a remarkable coalition of liberals and religious leaders agreed on a system protecting minorities to “balance freedom and rule of law.” In a book sure to interest students of Middle Eastern history, particularly in the 20th century, Thompson fashions an original, authoritative study, laying out the process of the “theft” of Syrian democracy. “The history of postwar Syria,” she writes, “reveals that the tragedy of the 1919 [Paris Peace] conference was due not to the oversight of a few exhausted and old-fashioned statesmen, but rather to their vigorous effort to expand a colonial and racialist world system.”

Bitter lessons from the past unearthed and expertly reexamined.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4820-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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