Powerful, poignant, and ultimately celebratory. Let the church say, “Amen!”

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A scholarly and intimate look at the Black Church’s prodigious history and potential future.

In a companion book to a PBS documentary, renowned historian Gates delves into the history of the Black Church, which Harvard historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham called “the single most important institution in the Black community.” For centuries, the church has been a source of hope and strength for Black people, first as a way to address the horrific cruelty of slavery. A better life awaited the enslaved; they just had to remain faithful. At the same time, Black Christianity spurred the nation’s largest slave rebellion, and, later, the church would become the physical and spiritual home of Black social protest and the civil rights movement. Through meticulous research and interviews with scholars as well as “believers, nonbelievers, musical artists, [and] pastoral leaders,” Gates paints a compelling portrait of the church as a source of “unfathomable resiliency” for Black ancestors as well as the birthplace of so many distinctly African American aesthetic forms, including “blues, jazz, rock and roll, soul and R&B, folk, rock, and even hip-hop.” With the advent of hip-hop came a “generational shift away” from the traditional church, which now finds itself at a crossroads in an era featuring the rise of both the “bling-bling” of prosperity gospel and the socially conscious Black Lives Matter movement—not to mention the pandemic, which affects Black, Native, and Hispanic people disproportionately. Refreshingly, the author’s lens is not uncritical: He writes of a still-relevant church, as diverse as the Black experience itself, with struggles and failings, including its treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community and its dismal response to the 1980s AIDS epidemic. The book also includes generous photos, an engrossing epilogue revealing Gates’ personal religious experiences alongside additional research, and chapter-heading quotes from W.E.B. Du Bois, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and other Black icons.

Powerful, poignant, and ultimately celebratory. Let the church say, “Amen!”

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984880-33-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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