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THE SIZE OF OTHERS' BURDENS

BARACK OBAMA, JANE ADDAMS, AND THE POLITICS OF HELPING OTHERS

Schneiderhan leaves it to us to continue the journey these two began. His work, like theirs, is inspiring.

Schneiderhan’s (Sociology/Univ. of Toronto) biographical comparison of Jane Addams (1860-1935) and Barack Obama illustrates how little has changed regarding the difficulties of community building.

You wouldn’t think there would be many similarities between a wealthy Illinois woman and a young, mixed-race political activist, but their characters and the paths they followed bind them together. Both had traveled widely and could have enjoyed a comfortable life, but something drove them to the Chicago neighborhoods. Addams was educated only to a point, and she was independently wealthy but knew she had a calling to help the poor. Emulating Toynbee Hall social settlement in London’s East End, she learned the usefulness of living amid the poor and helping them as neighbors. Obama was lucky in securing a place at Hawaii’s most prestigious private school. His excellent education there and at Columbia and Harvard socialized him into the privileged world Addams knew. Both needed that education and socialization to mix with business and the elite to achieve their goals. Schneiderhan is wise to present these biographies back to back rather than point out commonalities one after another. He shows how these two illuminated the American dream even though race and gender loomed large to prevent them. They both saw communities where neighbors helped out in small ways, but neighbors often couldn’t help in securing jobs, education, child care, or a central gathering place. Addams’ Hull House led the way in the settlement movement, which directly addressed the problem. She fought against the stingy relief of charity organizations and helped neighbors help each other. Obama did likewise, convincing his community to speak up for themselves, getting voters registered, and, like Addams, believing in people.

Schneiderhan leaves it to us to continue the journey these two began. His work, like theirs, is inspiring.

Pub Date: June 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8047-8917-2

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Stanford Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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NIGHT

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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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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