A book worthy of a wide audience and wide discussion.




A vision of enhancing racial equality—or simply lessening racial inequality—in America.

By African-American legal scholar Higginbotham’s account, it wasn’t until he entered a well-heeled private school that he encountered the N-word thrown his way. When it was, a white coach cracked down hard, issuing “a zero tolerance policy for racial epithets.” No more such epithets were forthcoming, though not necessarily out of any inborn kindness on the part of the man who cast that first stone. The takeaway for Higginbotham: Civil rights movements on the part of the oppressed are well and good, but “whites needed to stand up against racism in order for it to cease.” Things are better in some respects than in the 1960s, but, writes the author, the formula has changed. Blacks—and, to a greater or lesser extent, other nonwhite ethnic groups—are no longer judged and discriminated against strictly on the basis of race, but also on factors of class, education, income and access to political power, among others. For example, regarding sports: “Recruited black players could play in games, but ‘walk-on’ black players could not.” Against such broadband exclusion, Higginbotham mounts a spirited defense of affirmative action policies that is backed by good case law and by common sense—or at least a sense of fair play, for, as he notes, few complain about legacy students getting into a particular college, but people certainly do complain when the numbers of black—or Asian or Hispanic—students go up, particularly if there is a perception that they are somehow undeserving. America may be trending toward justice, but that trend is slow. Otherwise, Higginbotham asks elsewhere in this searching argument, why is there a disproportionate number of homeless blacks?

A book worthy of a wide audience and wide discussion.

Pub Date: March 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-0814737477

Page Count: 352

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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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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