THE CONFEDERATE WAR

HOW POPULAR WILL, NATIONALISM, AND MILITARY STRATEGY COULD NOT STAVE OFF DEFEAT

A revisionist examination of the Confederate experience, as much concerned with historians and their methods as with history itself. ``Any historian who argues that the Confederate people demonstrated robust devotion to their slave-based republic, possessed feelings of national community, and sacrificed more than any other segment of white society in US history,'' frets Gallagher (American History/Penn. State Univ.), ``runs the risk of being labeled a neo-Confederate.'' He's right to worry. Making precisely that argument, his history of Confederate military and civilian experience veers dangerously close to hagiography of an entire culture. Challenging the current historical consensus that lack of will, absence of national unity, and flawed military strategy doomed the Confederacy, Gallagher presents contemporary letters, diaries, and newspaper accounts that rhapsodize about the true grit of rebel soldiers and civilians. To his credit, he resists the urge to backtrack from Appomattox when explaining military failure (as he accuses other historians of doing) and instead puts the Confederate war effort in a larger historical framework—namely the successful rebellion of the American Revolution. He poses a number of intriguing questions for fellow historians, suggesting most notably that scholars ask not why an uprising viewed as ``a rich man's war but a poor man's fight'' failed, but why so many non-slaveholders fought for so long. But his parade of testimonials to the nobility of the Lost Cause, unchallenged by critical questioning, sticks in the craw. Soldiers' letters, reenlistment figures, and editorials—which all suggest high morale when taken at face value by Gallagher—could easily be viewed as propaganda. At least their bombastic language enlivens an otherwise stiffly formal academic text. A work of more interest to historians than general readers, and more important for the questions it raises than any it answers. (40 photos, not seen) (History Book Club selection)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-674-16055-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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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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