Former New York Times reporter Salisbury (The New Emperors, 1992, etc.) profiles 25 individuals who have won his admiration. Nearly all the sketches are crisp and effective, but some subjects seem capriciously chosen, failing the author's own criteria: courage. Salisbury has chosen some figures who, though obscure to most readers, seem to have led exemplary lives—including Deng Pufang, who's used his position as son of China's current ruler to change his nation's attitudes about the physically disabled; Sue and Lawrence Brooks, a New England judge and his wife who tirelessly spoke out for civil rights in the US; and Sister Huang Roushan, a nun who for five decades has worked with China's despised lepers. The author is also drawn to those who exude edgy intelligence, energy, or capacity for growth, including Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, Solzhenitsyn, and David Halberstam—and these sketches crackle with life (RFK was ``hard eyed, hard faced, hard minded, and thin lipped....I was certain his quick eyes did not miss a thing nor his ears a word''). Salisbury also reveals some surprising facts from his Times years, such as that then-city editor A. M. Rosenthal forbade any mention of Malcolm X in the newspaper of record. But some of the author's subjects are bound to produce head-scratching regarding their bravery: Zhou En-lai's greatest assets, for instance, seem to have been the survival skills of a ``gentleman courtier,'' and Khrushchev talked a better game against his party apparatchiks than he played. And what are we to make of this summary of the achievement of Red Storm Over China author Edgar Snow?: ``Certainly Snow could not get Mao to reveal the negatives, to detail the bloodiness of the Long March, the slaughter of the landlords, the infighting with his Russian peers. But those are details.'' Details? Lively sketches of some of the most fascinating people of our time—though a few will remain ``heroes'' to Salisbury alone. (First printing of 25,000)

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8027-1217-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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