EMPIRE OF SIN

A STORY OF SEX, JAZZ, MURDER, AND THE BATTLE FOR MODERN NEW ORLEANS

A colorful account of reform efforts to eradicate sin, corruption and violence in early-20th-century New Orleans.

In this richly detailed narrative, Krist (City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster that Gave Birth to Modern Chicago, 2012, etc.) describes a three-decade battle that pitted an Anglo-American elite against the forces of vice in a swiftly changing Crescent City. After the Civil War, New Orleans hoped to downplay its worldly reputation and attract Northern investors, but crime and immorality flourished. “The social evil is rampant in our midst,” wrote one newspaper. By the late 1890s, the “better element” wanted to drive vice out of respectable neighborhoods entirely. Enter alderman Sidney Story, who proposed the 18-block tolerated vice district soon known as Storyville, which harbored 230 brothels as well as dance halls featuring so-called “coon music,” or jazz, by Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and other musicians. Much of Krist’s story focuses on denizens of the notorious district, including businessman and Storyville “mayor” Tom Anderson, demimonde “queen” Josie Arlington, and a cast of legendary madams, dancers, gamblers, prostitutes and underworld figures. Drawing on newspaper accounts and court testimony, the author offers vivid accounts of mob violence against Italians and blacks, notably the brutal vigilante lynchings of 11 Italians after the assassination of police chief David C. Hennessy. The members of the mob were hailed as heroes of efforts to clean up the city. By 1918, Jim Crow reigned, Storyville was closed, and jazz was under attack. In the 1930s, having forced vice underground, the city found itself trying to re-create its wicked old reputation to lure tourists. Krist’s lively book is only marred by an overlong section devoted to a series of axe murders that plagued the city.

A wild, well-told tale. 

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7704-3706-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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