One of the country's top black scholars offers a tender memoir of his youth in a West Virginia paper mill town in the 1950s and '60s. Gates (African-American Studies/Harvard) trades the academic jargon of his literary criticism (as in Loose Canons, 1992) for a dead-on conversational voice threaded with black vernacular. ``I am not native to the great black metropolises,'' he declares at the outset, yet in Piedmont, a town of 2,100 (circa 1950) in northeastern West Virginia, race contoured existence. The civil rights era, pictured on television, arrived slowly, as ``school was virtually the only integrated arena'' after Brown v. Board of Education. But Gates's world was rich: He describes sex education in a talky barbershop, self-righteous teetotalers on his mother's side, and card-playing punsters on his father's. He battled with his sardonic father, a millworker; retreated to the church to cope with a depressive mother; grew enamored of Africa in current events class; and became a reader to bridge the gap with a white girl whose friendship he lost as puberty arrived. In church camp, at the time of the Watts riots, he first read James Baldwin, whose picture seemed ``so very Negro.'' Gates began battling with his relatives as he grew the first Afro in town, proclaimed himself black, and moved on to the local state college five miles away. But he knows enough now to wince at some of his rhetoric and to celebrate his mother's earlier civil rights protests. Gates ends the book with a warm portrait of the last segregated black mill picnic, which he convincingly depicts as a loss to the black community under integration. Gates left West Virginia for Yale and a meteoric career; the worlds he has seen since should someday make a terrific sequel.

Pub Date: May 18, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-42179-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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