A powerful case for viewing the unfinished Civil War as a Confederate victory after all.



A thought-provoking study of the centuries-spanning battle between oligarchy and equality in America.

In 1860, writes Richardson (History/Boston Coll.; To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party, 2014, etc.), the Republican Party took pains in its platform to remind audiences of the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that “all men are created equal.” All men were not equal, of course, to say nothing of women, who would not gain the right to vote for another three generations. Still, the Republicans opposed a slave system that they regarded as despotic while Southern true believers held that a small elite formed a proper polity all their own, slave owners who “would resolve the American paradox by shearing off the portion of it that endorsed equality.” It was this radical rejection of a founding premise, however imperfectly applied, that distinguished Republicans and Southern Democrats. By Richardson’s account, it is this radical rejection that, the party roles having reversed polarity a century later, distinguishes Republicans from Democrats, the former of whom now possess “the language they need to undermine our democracy, and to replace it with an oligarchy.” Furthermore, they believed that “their new system made their nation different from the Old World, which was split between a corrupt aristocracy and the lazy poor.” In their view, a corrupt aristocracy was fine as long as it did not have to share spoils or power; of course, the common trope among Republicans these days is that if you’re poor, it’s because you choose to be. Nixon’s “Southern strategy” did much to propel neo-Confederate values into the modern Republican Party. Later, Newt Gingrich enshrined them, fortifying class inequality by placing “tax cuts at the center of Republican policy” and reducing political interference by changing lawmaking so that lobbyists—not representatives—wrote regulations and laws that “were designed to put the American government at the service of democracy.”

A powerful case for viewing the unfinished Civil War as a Confederate victory after all.

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-090090-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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