THE CIVIL WAR DIARY OF CLARA SOLOMON

GROWING UP IN NEW ORLEANS, 1861-1862

The overly prosaic and gossipy journal of a 16-year-old Jewish girl and fierce Confederate patriot. Solomon was the second oldest of six surviving girls in an upper-middle-class Sephardic merchant family in New Orleans. Unfortunately, because of the assimilated nature of her family, the reader learns little about 19th-century southern Jewish life. In fact, Solomon's diaries even contain a few crude stereotypes, such as an allusion to a Sephardic Jewish merchant as ``Mr. Hebe.'' Amid its many references to the weather, school, food, company, family, and ``crushes'' on both men and other girls, Solomon's diary contains only sporadic allusions to the war itself. The most historically revealing are reports she reads of the battles of Manassas (Bull Run) and Shiloh; the most moving are her frequent pinings for her absent father, who is away as a sutler (provisioner of clothes and other supplies) along the battlefront in Virginia. However, Solomon's involvement in the contemporary maelstrom increases dramatically in the last 80 pages or so, after New Orleans is occupied by Federal forces on April 25, 1862. She provides insight into the harsh rule of General Benjamin F. (``the beast'') Butler, the efforts at defiance by Southern patriots of all ages and both sexes, and the shortages of food and other privations. Editor Ashkenazi (The Business of Jews in Louisiana, 18401875, not reviewed) provides necessary historical background and ``decodes'' many of the personal references in the diary; his afterword reveals the postbellum fate of many members of the Solomon family, including Clara. Stylistically, however, he makes the diary a more difficult read than it might have been by not editing more. Covers too short a period and contains too much ephemera to interest any but the most die-hard students of Confederate social or 19th-century American women's history.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8071-1968-7

Page Count: 444

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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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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