A valuable addition to the popular literature of the Civil War, well-conceived and packaged.

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THE CIVIL WAR IN 50 OBJECTS

A modern dean of Civil War studies offers an illuminating account of the conflict as reflected in material culture.

Holzer (Lincoln on War, 2011, etc.), working through the archives of the New-York (always with the hyphen) Historical Society, unearths treasures, if sometimes grim ones. The first, for instance, is a set of manacles made for a child slave, which serves to establish the incontestable fact that, at least for the North, the war was “somehow about slavery,” as Lincoln said; it also affords Holzer the opportunity to relate that, well after the war ended, some former slaveholders still treated their former property as bonded to them. He closes the book with a copy of the Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery in the United States—which, Holzer pointedly notes, was not ratified in Mississippi until 1995. Elsewhere, the author writes of Northern vexillomania—i.e., the passionate embrace of the Union flag in public demonstrations in New York and other cities following the fall of Fort Sumter. He also notes that “not every New Yorker volunteered to fight for the Union, or even support the Union cause,” and he follows with the tale of one who died in combat on April 14, 1865—which is to say, after the surrender at Appomattox. Holzer’s choice of objects is spot-on, and the anecdotes they occasion are even more so, particularly when he turns to little-commemorated episodes such as the valiant charge of 14 New York dragoons against a much larger Confederate force (it did not end well for the dragoons) and the effect of the Union blockade on school primers in the South.

A valuable addition to the popular literature of the Civil War, well-conceived and packaged.

Pub Date: May 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-01463-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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