Informed, sensible and impassioned.



Washington Post Book World deputy editor Asim rehearses the history of the most noxious word in the English language and dreams of a day when it will disappear from the lexicon.

His text unavoidably rounds up some of the usual suspects detained and examined in Randall Kennedy’s Nigger (2002). Look here for more on Mark Fuhrman, Malcolm X, Bill Cosby and Quentin Tarantino. Asim also hunts down the actual word, pursues it across the terrain of its birth, speculates about its rise to pervasiveness in the writings of some of America’s most revered public figures: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln. He convincingly links stereotypes about black stupidity, criminality and shiftlessness with the N word’s popularity and closely examines films, novels, TV shows, music and other forms of public discourse to see how negative stereotypes flourished even after the word itself began to disappear. He lays at Jefferson’s feet what he calls “niggerology,” the production of “scientific” evidence for blacks’ inferiority. He looks hard at the depiction of blacks in early American fiction, most notably The Spy (1821) and Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). He has kind words for Melville’s work, especially the 1855 novella “Benito Cereno.” Not surprisingly, Asim offers a lengthy commentary on Huckleberry Finn, which he both admires and condemns, arguing that it should not be taught until high school. The author savages Gone with the Wind, likening Margaret Mitchell’s novel to Thomas Dixon’s vile The Clansman and the film it inspired, The Birth of a Nation. Spike Lee, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle and Paul Mooney emerge as heroes who use the N word to attack racists and racism. But Asim has harsh words for gangsta rappers whose language, he argues, “often abets a white supremacist agenda.” Blacks’ amiable usage of the word with one another, he believes, will delay its deserved demise.

Informed, sensible and impassioned.

Pub Date: April 18, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-19717-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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