A welcome contribution to the small library of early American naval history, deserving a place alongside one of the last...

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SIX FRIGATES

THE EPIC HISTORY OF THE FOUNDING OF THE U.S. NAVY

Who knew that we owe the U.S. Navy to long-ago Muslim machinations?

That gross oversimplification points to a historical accident that debut author and historian Toll capably works. At the time of the Revolution, America’s navy amounted to a ragtag collection of privateers and merchantmen; even John Paul Jones’s celebrated raid along the English coast was a freelance operation. After the Revolution, writes Toll, “what little remained of the Continental Navy was taken entirely out of service,” the ships auctioned off and the men dismissed. Whether the new country needed a navy at all was a matter of hot debate among rival political parties, even as America’s merchant fleet became an important presence in the Mediterranean and Caribbean markets. Enter the “Barbary pirates,” privateers of four Arabic states that seized American ships and sailors in a sort of elaborate protection racket—one that England, the world’s foremost naval power, could have easily crushed but instead used as a “check against the growth of economic competition from smaller maritime rivals,” particularly the upstart U.S. In response, though taking time out to come to the brink of war with France, Congress authorized the construction of a federal navy whose six-frigate core numbered “the most powerful ships of their class in any navy in the world.” The U.S. Navy then sailed off to Tripoli to begin the ten-year campaign that would finally break Barbary power. Toll’s narrative closes with an admirably thorough account of the naval dimension of the War of 1812, when James Madison determined that an organized fleet acting in concert was less effective than a single frigate that could “get loose in the Atlantic and prey upon British shipping,” which American ships did to great effect, doing much to win the war.

A welcome contribution to the small library of early American naval history, deserving a place alongside one of the last such books—by a pre-presidential Theodore Roosevelt.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-393-05847-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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