An ambitious, intelligent exploration into the intellectual underpinnings of the Revolution.

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REVOLUTIONARIES

A NEW HISTORY OF THE INVENTION OF AMERICA

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Rakove (History, American Studies and Political Science/Stanford Univ.; Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, 1996, etc.) reflects on how a group of lawyers and planters came to wage the American Revolution.

Instead of focusing on the battlefield, the author examines what might be called a revolution of the mind—that is, how the early Founding Fathers’ ideas developed and took hold. Early on, moderates who did not wish independence from England—such as John Dickinson, who wrote the influential anti-tax Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania in the late 1760s—were among the most important voices of protest. But England’s much-reviled Stamp Act, among other outrages, put livelihoods at stake and turned apolitical men into partisans and merchants and farmers into budding revolutionaries. Rakove admirably avoids hagiography, refreshingly portraying these men as ordinary human beings who simply rose to the challenge of their age. And what a challenge it was—the creation of the United States was nothing if not an arduous, argumentative process. The author dissects that process in exquisite detail, getting inside the minds of these very different men to find out what made them tick—for example, how Alexander Hamilton’s desire for fame drove his consistently ambitious ideas, or how Thomas Jefferson’s love for France may have affected his views on self-government. Rakove’s analysis of James Madison at the Constitutional Convention, in particular, reveals the future president as an extraordinarily complex and politically creative thinker—truly a case of the right man in the right place at the right time. Though the author’s prose is a bit dry, his feel for the politics of the day is unerring.

An ambitious, intelligent exploration into the intellectual underpinnings of the Revolution.

Pub Date: May 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-618-26746-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

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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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