LINCOLN, THE WAR PRESIDENT

Seven sterling essays that assess the nature of Lincoln's leadership as commander in chief. Written by an impressive constellation of historians, including five Pulitzer winners, all the pieces but the one by Boritt (Civil War Studies/Gettysburg College; ed., Why the Confederacy Lost, p. 151) are drawn from lectures given annually at Gettysburg College to commemorate Lincoln's address. As James M. McPherson writes in his perceptive ``Lincoln and the Strategy of Unconditional Surrender,'' Lincoln was ``the only President in our history whose entire administration was bounded by the parameters of war.'' Yet his purpose in prosecuting the Civil War, and the war's implications for his posterity, remains as elusive as other aspects of his contradictory personality. Inevitably, this collection's mainstream perspective on Lincoln is refracted through the prism of more recent, convulsive conflicts, including the civil-rights movement (David Brion Davis's ``The Emancipation Movement''), the Vietnam War (Boritt's ``War Opponent and War President''), and the overthrow of Communism and the flowering of East European nationalism (Kenneth Stampp's ``One Alone? The United States and National Self-Determination''). Arthur Schlesinger's piece comparing Lincoln and FDR as war leaders, while written with his customary grace and political incisiveness, also betrays his tendency to minimize the failings of his heroes. The comprehensive overviews in these pieces, however, especially in Carl Degler's examination of 19th-century national unification movements, inspires deepened appreciation for Lincoln's ``new birth of freedom.'' Particularly for Boritt and Robert Bruce (``The Shadow of the Coming War''), Lincoln emerges as a compellingly paradoxical figure: a hater of violence who refused to back away from the bloodiest war in American history; a practical politician whose resort to emancipation ennobled a gory struggle. First-rate commentary by some of our finest historians on the President tested more than any other by war. (Twenty b&w illustrations.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-19-507891-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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