Tailgunner Joe rises from the grave in this nightmarish, spellbinding excursion into our nation's recent past. San Franciscobased freelance writer Fariello offers an oral history of a time when subscribers to The Nation, devotees of foreign films, and even those who supported Franklin Roosevelt's fourth term came under suspicion of being Communists or fellow travelers. It's no hyperbole to liken the time, as Fariello does, to the Inquisition. Fariello talks with dozens of participants in the whole sordid business, people like retired FBI agent M. Wesley Swearingen, who ferreted out suspected Reds in Chicago for nearly two decades and who confesses, ``It strikes me now, and it struck me then after a few years, that this was a waste of time and a waste of taxpayers' money.'' Harvey Job Matusow, a Communist, worked as a paid government informant until a Justice Department investigation revealed that his testimony was pure fiction. Robert Meeropol, a son of the convicted atom-bomb spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, recalls his early life as a ``red diaper'' baby and the pain of losing his parents. The writer Kay Boyle speaks of her husband, an Austrian-born former OSS officer who was hounded out of military service by federal authorities who decreed him guilty of ``premature antifascism.'' And the blacklisted filmmaker Edward Dmytryk, who went on to direct Raintree County, The Caine Mutiny, and The Young Lions after enduring an official government campaign of harassment, comments on the contemporary film industry: ``Why don't we put out a decent film that has something to say? There are still people who are afraid to say anything for fear someone will get on their backs.'' To his interviews Fariello adds generous, accurate footnotes, along with a fine introduction. The tenor of our own time, with talk of cultural war, the cleansing of liberal politicians from Congress, and the restoration of ``American values,'' makes this good book especially timely.

Pub Date: March 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-393-03732-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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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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