An accomplished, powerful presentation of the American Revolution as it was, rather than as we might wish to remember it.

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SCARS OF INDEPENDENCE

AMERICA'S VIOLENT BIRTH

The American Revolution was no festive musical.

German-born historian Hoock (British History/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Empires of the Imagination: Politics, War, and the Arts in the British World, 1750-1850, 2010, etc.) asserts that this is "the first book on the American Revolution and the Revolutionary War to adopt violence as its central analytical and narrative focus." Over time, he writes, the Revolution's pervasive violence and terror have "yielded to a strangely bloodless narrative of the war that mirrors the image of a tame and largely nonviolent Revolution." In fact, he claims in this fresh approach to a well-trod subject, "to understand the Revolution and the war—the very birth of the nation—we must write the violence, in all its forms, back into the story." This he certainly does, examining both physical and psychological violence inflicted by all participants—British, German and colonial military forces, Patriot and Loyalist partisans and civilians, Native Americans, and free and enslaved blacks—on each other throughout the conflict. The catalog of misery includes battlefield atrocities, rape and plunder of civilians, inhumane imprisonment, lynchings and expulsions, and the scorched-earth destruction of crops, plantations, and entire towns. Hoock suggests that the conflict is best understood as America's first civil war rather than as a colonial uprising. He also considers at length the struggles by civil and military leaders of both sides to determine what levels of violence would be efficacious in achieving their objectives and acceptable under contemporary ethical standards, issues of continuing relevance today. Deeply researched and buttressed by extensive useful endnotes, this is history that will appeal to both scholars and general readers. The author presents his grim narrative in language that is vivid without becoming lurid. In urging an acceptance of historical accuracy over our foundational myths, he hopes to direct us toward "an approach to global leadership…more restrained, finely calibrated, and generously spirited."

An accomplished, powerful presentation of the American Revolution as it was, rather than as we might wish to remember it.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3728-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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