An eye-opening biography from a trusted source on the topic.




A fresh look at John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, abolitionism, and other related American history.

The great 19th-century champion of black equality was not Lincoln, writes Kaplan (Emeritus, English/Queens Coll.; John Quincy Adams: American Visionary, 2014, etc.), who has authored biographies of both of his principal figures. In this insightful, often disturbing dual biography, he makes a convincing case that Adams, working decades before Lincoln, was the real hero. The ex-president returned to Washington as a member of the House of Representatives in 1830. He never liked slavery, but it was not a priority during his presidency. In 1836, enraged by anti-slavery petitions, Southern representatives passed the legendary “gag rule” that forbade their discussion. Galvanized to action, Adams fought, eventually successfully, to overturn it, thereby becoming abolition’s leading spokesman until his death. Kaplan emphasizes that, unlike all other great men who disapproved of slavery (from Jefferson to Lincoln), Adams never qualified his opposition with racist rhetoric. A consummate politician, Lincoln could not offend Illinois voters who overwhelmingly considered blacks subhuman and loathed abolitionists. Lincoln publicly agreed, but his private writings give little comfort. He opposed slavery on humanitarian grounds, but, unlike Adams, “Lincoln would not go the next step…from antislavery moralism to antislavery activism.” As the Civil War raged, Lincoln fended off abolitionists, aware that most Northerners continued to despise them. The Emancipation Proclamation, a feeble step, was, as he feared, widely unpopular, but it was also the beginning of the end of the practice of slavery. This is accepted history, but readers accustomed to the worshipful History Channel view will squirm to learn that Lincoln never believed that blacks could live among whites as equals. Adams believed, and Kaplan drives this home in a fine portrait of a great man far ahead of his time.

An eye-opening biography from a trusted source on the topic.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-244000-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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