A book of justifiably righteous indignation at—and condemnation of—a monstrous program.

SEPARATED

INSIDE AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY

NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Soboroff takes a piercing look at a controversial immigration policy.

Separating migrant minors from their families has been a hallmark of the current administration—and, writes the author, “an unparalleled abuse of the human rights of children.” His narrative begins in June 2018 in Brownsville, Texas, where he toured a former Walmart that had been converted into a “shelter” to house some 1,500 migrant boys, many of them caught with their families trying to enter the U.S. By virtue of the administration’s vaunted “zero tolerance” policy, these children represent what Soboroff calls “an avoidable catastrophe.” His sketches of the detention centers are consistently affecting and haunting. As he noted at the time, “this place is called a shelter, but effectively these kids are incarcerated.” The policy of separation was foreshadowed in Trump’s blustery rhetoric during the 2016 campaign—but more by his lieutenant Stephen Miller, who loudly voiced “vitriol for undocumented immigrants.” It was up to Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen to enact it, even after she was warned that family separations would constitute a violation of the constitutional principle of fair treatment. Miller’s faction won the day, and family separation became policy. Startlingly, when a federal judge ruled against the policy and ordered the government to reunite detained families, Customs and Border Patrol admitted that it had planned to separate “more than 26,000 children between May and September 2018” alone. Naturally, the administration has denied the policy even as, Soboroff notes, the principals involved who remain in the administration are now the very people who are coordinating the government’s bungled response to COVID-19. And even though the policy has theoretically been terminated by executive order, thousands of migrant children are still detained in tent cities and other facilities across the border, in some cases without their families for years.

A book of justifiably righteous indignation at—and condemnation of—a monstrous program.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299219-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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