Jefferson was such an enigma that studies of him are almost as numerous as the volumes in the great man’s own library—but...

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UNDERSTANDING THOMAS JEFFERSON

Historian Halliday votes to keep Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore.

First, in scarcely a hundred pages, the author sketches a profile up close and personal of his intriguing subject, with little detail about the statesman’s public service. The rest of the text counts Jefferson’s friends and relatives and reconstructs his views on such diverse subjects as literature, sex, religion, politics, and race. The writing of the Declaration is noted briefly, with more attention given to the composition of the descriptive “Notes on Virginia” and the famous “Head and Heart” essay. Much space is devoted to the women in the life of the famous polymath, who learned a lot from the ladies. Foremost, naturally, is Sally Hemings, the slave with whom the Virginia gentleman maintained a long, vibrant love affair—along with several children. Sally, half-sister of his late wife, had accompanied Jefferson’s daughter to France when he was there as US envoy. Halliday argues that the affair was, all in all, respectable and quite satisfactory to both master and servant. (One can almost picture them at Monticello in old age, comforting themselves with the knowledge that “We’ll always have Paris.”) The author reviews the biographical work of several of his predecessors, particularly Dumas Malone, author of six reverent volumes. To Malone he gives the back of his authorial hand, detecting “a distinct aura of racial bias, whether conscious or unconscious.” On the other hand, the work of Fawn Brodie is deservedly praised.

Jefferson was such an enigma that studies of him are almost as numerous as the volumes in the great man’s own library—but this valuable new account deserves a prominent place among them. (Illustrated throughout)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019793-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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