Manufactured suspense, along with pages of invented and hackneyed dialogue, vitiates this account of the varieties of...

BY DUTY BOUND

SURVIVAL AND REDEMPTION IN A TIME OF WAR

An African-American military officer tells his story—or, rather, his two stories.

Ware’s first is about how, in 1971, he survived for three weeks in the Vietnam jungle with a very wounded, very racist captain after their chopper was downed; the other is about how he rose from Mississippi poverty and discrimination to become a brigadier general in the California National Guard. Unfortunately, though, Ware and journalist Engel (who ghosted By George: The Autobiography of George Foreman, 1996) employ a most clichéd narrative device to do the telling: the intercutting of Ware’s two tales, chapter by chapter. In the Vietnam War one, we follow the two principals—the black man and the wounded former KKK member—as they struggle to survive. They battle starvation (insects soon compose the menu), sleep-deprivation, a tiger, two of the enemy who find them (Ware kills them both), leeches, depression, a worsening wound, incipient madness, racial strife. By the time they’re rescued, Ware and the Klansman are buddies. And in the story-of-my-life segments, we follow Ware’s escape from a broken home (his father is gone much of the time) and from Jim Crow at its most vicious. Ware does well in school and in athletics, and he eventually joins the Marines, where he excels at Parris Island. But he wants to fly, and the Marines seem disinclined to train black pilots, so after leaving the Marines, he enlists in the Army and qualifies for flight school. We learn about Ware’s love life (he marries and divorces an unfaithful woman—and enjoys some sexual encounters in Vietnam), his ambitions (he wants to be a general), and his political positions. He argues that the US did the right thing by waging war in Vietnam (the Tet Offensive, he says, was actually an American victory—the press got it wrong), and he comes across as just a red cape shy of Superman.

Manufactured suspense, along with pages of invented and hackneyed dialogue, vitiates this account of the varieties of heroism.

Pub Date: March 7, 2005

ISBN: 0-525-94861-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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