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Weaving the personal and political tightly together, novelist Slovo creates an incisive and unflinching portrait of her prominent South African family. At the height of apartheid, perhaps no two white South Africans were more hated and more admired than Slovo's parents, Ruth First and Joe Slovo. As prominent members of the ANC and the South African Communist Party (which Joe would eventually head), they had gone where few white South Africans dared. Not content with the subdued grumbling and subversive tea parties that usually passed for anti-apartheid activism in their privileged circle, they became increasingly radicalized and escaped into exile. While Ruth fought for the cause largely through journalism and academic research, Joe lived a life of secrecy and subterfuge, planning how to hit back at the apartheid regime through sabotage and terror. Though the South African government wanted both of them dead, Ruth was the easier target. In 1982, a mail bomb killed her in Mozambique. Joe lived to help negotiate—peacefully—South Africa's future. But soon after Mandela appointed him minister of housing, he was stricken with cancer and quickly died. As Slovo investigates the wilderness of mirrors that constituted her parents' political lives, she also tries to discover who they really were as individuals behind the secrets and the lies. She has covered some of this ground before in fiction (Ties of Blood, 1990), but what she discovered and recounts here has a strangeness and piquancy quite beyond her fictive powers. Not only does she track down and confront one of the men responsible for her mother's death—a cool and clever equivocator, largely unrepentant—she also movingly details the pain and the pride she felt growing up in such strange, terrible times. A memorable and emotionally compelling achievement.

Pub Date: May 12, 1997

ISBN: 0-316-79923-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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...

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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