SPAIN'S CAUSE WAS MINE

A MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN MEDIC IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

This brief memoir of the Spanish Civil War by an American who volunteered with the International Brigade builds up steam slowly but does eventually become quite gripping. Rubin takes a full third of the book just to describe how difficult it was to get to Spain in 1937 and then devotes additional space to an unsurprising description of his basic training. Following that, though, he offers a detailed look at a war-ravaged country as he describes his journey through separatist Catalonia to join republican positions closer to Madrid. In repeatedly evoking the political climate of the times, stressing the effect of the world's reluctance to act to save Spain from fascist dictatorship, Rubin spares neither his own country nor the Vatican. Initially part of a combat unit, Rubin contracted hepatitis as a result of repeated bouts of dysentery (a subject that, along with his finally remedied virginity, Rubin is perhaps too frank about) and was sent to an army hospital, where he eventually stayed on as a medic (despite the fact that he hadn't had a chance to complete his pre-med studies back home), witnessing firsthand the awful residue of battle. Among the most moving scenes is his unvarnished description of how he helped a mortally wounded soldier in terrible pain to die by injecting air into a vein. In the book's brief epilogue, Rubin discusses the prejudices he encountered when he returned to America following the collapse of the Republic and how, despite his almost immediate return to combat in WW II, suspicions about his loyalty shadowed him. Many saw the republican cause as identical with communism, which oversimplifies the war to the point of absurdity. Rubin has not rewritten Hemingway's or Orwell's masterpieces on the Spanish Civil War, but his contribution is moving, angry, and deeply convincing. (5 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8093-2159-9

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Southern Illinois Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

CODE TALKER

A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.

At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore “the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world.” Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 “code talkers” selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for “A,” which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life “as better than he could ever have expected,” and looks back with pride on the part he played in “a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition,” his culture's contribution to victory.

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24423-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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