A pertinent history lesson, especially in this election year.



Civil War historian Ecelbarger (Three Days in the Shenandoah: Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester, 2008, etc.) looks at the remarkable campaign that propelled Honest Abe to the presidency.

Having been defeated twice in four years for his bid to the U.S. Senate—against Stephen A. Douglas—Illinois attorney Lincoln was in a low point of his career by late 1858. His improbable rise to win the Republican Party’s nomination for president by 1860—against the great favorite, New York Senator William Seward—makes a compelling story, which is skillfully delineated by Ecelbarger. The future president’s debates with Douglas, a proponent of the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, made Lincoln nationally famous, and proved to be the catalyst for his success. Committed friends like Jesse Fell and Judge David Davis kept his name on the back burner, concealing his true ambition, while in the name of party unity Lincoln modified his anti-slavery views, distancing himself from the abolitionists, whose stance he believed spelled political suicide. He also had to backpedal from his controversial “House Divided” speech of the previous year (“A house divided against itself cannot stand”), which seemed to presage civil war. The build-up to the nomination required Lincoln to travel outside the state of Illinois to court the press, as Ecelbarger amply demonstrates. The author creates a sympathetic, humane portrait of this ungainly character who did not like to discuss his humble upbringing and spoke instead about the demoralizing influence of slavery in clear, earnest terms. At the Republican convention in Chicago in May 1860, the committed but underfinanced Lincoln team confronted the Seward juggernaut and carried the day. Ecelbarger’s informed, readable account will appeal to both scholars and amateur historians.

A pertinent history lesson, especially in this election year.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-37413-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.


The debut book from “one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard.”

In addition to delivering memorable portraits of undocumented immigrants residing precariously on Staten Island and in Miami, Cleveland, Flint, and New Haven, Cornejo Villavicencio, now enrolled in the American Studies doctorate program at Yale, shares her own Ecuadorian family story (she came to the U.S. at age 5) and her anger at the exploitation of hardworking immigrants in the U.S. Because the author fully comprehends the perils of undocumented immigrants speaking to journalist, she wisely built trust slowly with her subjects. Her own undocumented status helped the cause, as did her Spanish fluency. Still, she protects those who talked to her by changing their names and other personal information. Consequently, readers must trust implicitly that the author doesn’t invent or embellish. But as she notes, “this book is not a traditional nonfiction book….I took notes by hand during interviews and after the book was finished, I destroyed those notes.” Recounting her travels to the sites where undocumented women, men, and children struggle to live above the poverty line, she reports her findings in compelling, often heart-wrenching vignettes. Cornejo Villavicencio clearly shows how employers often cheat day laborers out of hard-earned wages, and policymakers and law enforcement agents exist primarily to harm rather than assist immigrants who look and speak differently. Often, cruelty arrives not only in economic terms, but also via verbal slurs and even violence. Throughout the narrative, the author explores her own psychological struggles, including her relationships with her parents, who are considered “illegal” in the nation where they have worked hard and tried to become model residents. In some of the most deeply revealing passages, Cornejo Villavicencio chronicles her struggles reconciling her desire to help undocumented children with the knowledge that she does not want "kids of my own." Ultimately, the author’s candor about herself removes worries about the credibility of her stories.

A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59268-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?