A refreshing account of generous people devoting their time and energy to doing something right.

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IN A ROCKET MADE OF ICE

AMONG THE CHILDREN OF WAT OPOT

The moving story of a tiny community in Cambodia where children whose lives have been shattered by AIDS are cared for, educated and raised to live full lives in the outside world.

The book, introduced by Dr. Paul Farmer, the noted authority on health and human rights, has its origins in articles that appeared in the Japan-based Kyoto Journal. Gutradt, a middle-aged woman living in Maine, first volunteered in Wat Opot in 2005 and returned there multiple times from 2007 to 2012. Her account is primarily about the children, some orphaned by AIDS but themselves HIV-negative, others HIV-positive who were once facing an early death but now, thanks to anti-viral medications, can survive. All live together as one large family in a nondenominational, nongovernmental center founded by an American medic, Wayne Dale Matthysse, and a Cambodian Buddhist, Vandin San. Midway through her insightful vignettes about individual children, Gutradt tells the back story: how and why Matthysse and the author came to be there, what the center means to them and how it has changed their lives. As the formerly depressed, soul-searching author puts it, “I needed to save my life.” It is worth noting that the church that once supported Wat Opot withdrew its backing when it felt that Matthysse was not being sufficiently evangelical, and now Gutradt is an active fundraiser for the center through the Wat Opot Children’s Fund. Her many photographs of the youngsters are appealing, but her warm stories generally avoid sentimentality; the needy children are not angels, and as they grow, they sometimes present truly tough problems for those concerned about their welfares and futures. Gutradt also discusses the problems created by unreliable government agencies and well-intentioned but uninformed do-gooders.

A refreshing account of generous people devoting their time and energy to doing something right.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-35347-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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BECOMING

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...

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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