A pertinent, well-fashioned American success saga.

THE DEFENDER

HOW THE LEGENDARY BLACK NEWSPAPER CHANGED AMERICA

This chronicle of the influential black Chicago newspaper simultaneously tracks the important issues pertaining to African-American history from the turn of the 19th century.

A copy editor and investigative reporter at the Defender from 1991 to 1996, journalist Michaeli tackles an enormous swath of American history in his thorough, painstaking account of the newspaper’s rise to prominence. The story begins with the Georgia-born Robert Abbott, who had been so impressed by the accomplishments of the black professionals he met while visiting Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 with his singing group, the Hampton Quartet, that he stayed in the city to attend law school. He was resolved that the city needed an African-American newspaper that would “ ‘wake them up,’ expose the atrocities of the southern system, and make demands for justice.” With scant resources, depending on subscriptions from the South Side black community, and using his landlady’s dining room as a newsroom, Abbott launched his first issue of the “defender of his race” in May 1905, with a print run of 300. Subsequently, Abbott led the newspaper to prominence over four decades, becoming the mouthpiece for the seminal race issues of the day: exposing the spate of lynchings in the South; advocating for the integration of sports teams; covering race riots; agitating for the huge migration of blacks to find industrial jobs in the North, known as the Great Northern Drive; and supporting the troops in a “Jim Crow army” while carefully avoiding undermining the war effort. As the Defender’s mantle of leadership was assumed by Abbott’s nephew John Sengstacke in 1940, the paper took on the role of galvanizing the black electorate, which would become key in the presidential elections of Harry Truman (1948) and John F. Kennedy (1960), the Chicago mayoral upset by Harold Washington in 1983, and Barack Obama’s astonishing homegrown surge in 2003. Michaeli has obviously put a considerable amount of care into the research and crafting of this important history.

A pertinent, well-fashioned American success saga.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-547-56069-4

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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