Smith illustrates clearly the plight of American slaves as they desperately struggled to gain their freedom and the lies,...

THE SLAVES' GAMBLE

CHOOSING SIDES IN THE WAR OF 1812

Smith (History/Texas Christian Univ.; Thomas ap Catesby Jones: Commodore of Manifest Destiny, 2000, etc.) explains the War of 1812 from the viewpoint of the slaves who served both sides in the hope of attaining their freedom.

There were also many free blacks who, for the most part, joined the American side in order to fortify their cities. Although whites were loath to give them guns, those few that gained commissions fought in battles that changed the course of the war. The author shows the important roles that all blacks, not necessarily just slaves, played in the war. The slaves gambled their lives in escaping to join the British; recapture would bring horrific punishment. Smith’s long years of research and wide knowledge of this conflict has enabled him to focus on some of the remarkable stories of men and their families who fled to the English side. The British, fighting Napoleon at the same time, hoped to supplement their meager forces with slaves, who were promised freedom to serve as soldiers and valuable guides. Any slave who made it to British property was guaranteed freedom. Of 5,000 escaped slaves, only 500 became soldiers, but the records show they were fearless fighters and served in almost every theater of the war, from Canada and Michigan to the Chesapeake Bay. The author holds no great love for Andrew Jackson, who promised freedom and monetary and land rewards to slaves who joined the American forces—he had no intention of honoring that promise.

Smith illustrates clearly the plight of American slaves as they desperately struggled to gain their freedom and the lies, deception and deviousness their owners used to deny it.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-230-34208-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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