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A luminously written, always insightful account of one woman’s encounter with personal and political liberation. (8 pp....

Nicaraguan poet, novelist (The Inhabited Woman, 1994), participant in, and witness to, the Nicaraguan revolution, Belli recalls with engaging candor the course of a life lived to the full.

In its twists and turns, moments of danger followed by intense romantic encounters, Belli’s memoir can resemble exuberant historical fiction. But despite her self-confessed naïveté and romantic temperament, Belli is a thoughtful and honest observer of herself and her times, critical of the course the Revolution took once the Sandinistas were in power and of the way the Ortega brothers monopolized power: “the Revolution slowly lost its steam, its spark—to be replaced by an unprincipled, manipulative, and populist mentality.” The daughter of an upper-class family in Managua, Belli led a privileged life that included trips and schooling abroad. In 1967, barely 18, she married, but continued working even after having her first daughter. At an advertising agency, she worked with a colleague, the “Poet,” who encouraged her writing, seduced her, and introduced her to his artistic and revolutionary friends. In 1970, she was asked to join the Sandinistas, becoming a trusted courier and accompanying leaders to clandestine assignations. She fell in love, left her husband, lived in exile in Costa Rica when she became a target of Somoza’s police, and had meetings with many luminaries, including Castro, who admired her poems. She won awards for her poetry, and, once the Sandinistas took over, was a prominent member of the new government. She began dating an American NPR correspondent whom she eventually married, and now divides her time between California and Nicaragua. Belli appreciates that the Revolution permanently changed her life, but she’s also learned that “not every commitment requires payment in blood—there is a heroism inherent to peace and stability—the challenge to squeeze every possibility out of life.”

A luminously written, always insightful account of one woman’s encounter with personal and political liberation. (8 pp. photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-40370-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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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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