Occasionally sluggish prose, but serviceable enough to convey ideas of great consequence. (15 b&w photos)

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MURDERING MCKINLEY

THE MAKING OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT’S AMERICA

An exploration of the personalities and sociopolitical forces that brought together President William McKinley and assassin Leon Czolgosz on Sept. 6, 1901.

McKinley was downed by two assassins, Rauchway (History/UC Davis) argues. Czolgosz fired two shots into the president, but it was vice-president Theodore Roosevelt who proceeded to make most Americans and many historians forget about him. Rauchway first examines the assassination, the immediate capture of Czolgosz, his speedy trial only weeks after the murder (the jury deliberated for 25 minutes), death by electrocution a month later, the perfunctory autopsy, and the gruesome burial, during which sulfuric acid was poured over the body. American political and social institutions functioned very differently then, the author demonstrates. Although Czolgosz was identified early on as an anarchist, he was never part of any official organization. (The oxymoronic nature of an anarchist “organization” is not lost on Rauchway.) Emma Goldman charmed the future assassin when he heard her speak in Cleveland; Czolgosz followed her to Buffalo shortly before the killing, but he was not known to the principal anarchists of the day. Among the most interesting parts here are the summaries of post-mortem interviews with the killer’s family in Cleveland conducted by Lloyd Vernon Briggs, a young physician who was attempting to determine if there were any psychological or medical reasons for his decision to shoot the president. Briggs discovered that Czolgosz had, in fact, led a fairly typical working-class life but had lost his job in a steel mill after the Panic of 1893. He was also, submits Rauchway, deeply concerned that he had developed syphilis and might have believed he was dying. The author argues as well that Roosevelt’s progressive beliefs arose in part out of his desire for a society that would not create men like Leon Czolgosz.

Occasionally sluggish prose, but serviceable enough to convey ideas of great consequence. (15 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8090-7170-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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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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