An excellent country profile and a jarring reminder that Indonesians continue to fight for democratic rights today,...

INDONESIA

THE LONG OPPRESSION

A fine, grim politicaleconomic history of Indonesia, from the first colonial state to the appointment of Habibie after the Suharto meltdown, from Simons (Libya: The Struggle for Survival, not reviewed).

Fine because Simons is a thorough yet fluent and stirring writer, with an eye for attentiongrabbing material and also a humane, progressive outlook; grim in that the Indonesian people, all 200 million of them, have had a very rude time of it, since the Portuguese first set up camp there in the 16th century right up until today. Simons starts his coverage with a gruesome overview of human-rights abuses—mass killings and mass arrests by the government are simply a part of everyday life in Indonesia—and the economic degradation of the Indonesian citizenry during the period of Suharto’s rule, aided and abetted by American and European political interests. It is impossible for Simons not to simmer with rage as he piles up evidence upon evidence of torture and murder, at the army's hands, of a broad swath of Indonesians: anyone in opposition to Suharto and plenty of innocents as well—a cruel sampling that seemingly touched each of the country’s 300 ethnic groups. Using ample documentation, Simons demonstrates just how culpable the US is for the bloodletting (conservatively estimated at 250,000 dead civilians) that brought Suharto to power, as well as for the arms dealing and the political and economic stranglehold that kept him in power for 30 years. Finally, Simons argues that sheer corruption and political sycophancy brought on the turmoil that capsized the regime, only to have it replaced by Suharto's lieutenant.

An excellent country profile and a jarring reminder that Indonesians continue to fight for democratic rights today, something not lost on the East Timorese, the latest, most public victims of Indonesian aggression.

Pub Date: May 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-22982-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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