paper 0-8101-1604-9 A Croatian writer intriguingly probes the meaning of the past and its literary rendering through an examination of her own life and that of the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva. Vrkljan’s two works form a cohesive whole that stirs the reader with the heavy atmosphere of Belgrade, Zagreb, and Berlin. The two works also invite us to draw parallels between what Vrkljan has to say about autobiographical writing and our own country’s obsession with memoir literature. The two works contain both the literary representation of the past and the interpretation of what it means to truthfully present the (remembered) facts of one’s life while retaining the lyrical beauty of words. The Silk, the Shears recounts Vrkljan’s life as it spans the tumultuous political upheavals of the century—from her childhood in interwar Belgrade, to her adolescence in Zagreb, and her adult life as a writer in Zagreb and Berlin. For those familiar with the former Yugoslavia, Vrkljan’s writing is piercing, vividly capturing the feel of strained intimate personal relations and public life. Vrkljan writes with honesty and tenderness about her family and friends, about her development as a poet, her own and her mother’s unsatisfactory role as wife, her oppressive father, and the troubles of women in society. Marina picks up on these themes; it reads as an externalized autobiography, an imaginative leap of interpretation through a literary and spiritual soul mate. Reflecting on this connection, Vrkljan writes, “The biographies of others. Splinters in our body. As I pull them out, I pull out my own pictures from the deep, dark funnel.” With the spirit of Tsvetaeva, Vrkljan discusses how a poet can reconstruct the fabric of life. A noteworthy addition to the small body of contemporary Croatian writings available in English, and a lyrical study of the form and meaning of biography.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8101-1603-0

Page Count: 185

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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